Maradona and me.
It's difficult to explain what Maradona means to Argentinians. Many words have been written about it. About the joy it brought to a country in despair. About knowing that wherever you go in the world, people will say "Ah! Argentina, Maradona!"
But still no matter how much has been written, it never seems enough. It seems like it always fails to capture how I, Bruno, feel about it, and why he meant and means so much for me.
I was 7 months old when he scored the two goals against England, so I didn't partake in the world cup celebration. I don't relate to him because of the joy he brought me, or the emotions of watching that game live. However, I do relate to him as a myth. Growing up there wasn't any youtube where you could just go and watch the goals. You'd hear stories, you'd know what happened, but not exactly how it happened. In the same way stories were passed on in tribes, the goals were passed on to us.
I have no real memories of that day, but I know my dad was watching the game with my grandad, I know in which chair my dad was seated, I know I was in his arms "watching" the game, and I know that when Maradona scored the goal of the century my dad jumped out of his chair out of pure emotion, I flew away, and he had to catch me mid air. I can see the whole thing. While of course constructed, it's a real memory for me. I cherish it, and I love to know that I shared it with my dad.
Just for that memory alone, I'd be forever grateful to Diego, but that is not all. In 2010 I moved from Buenos Aires to Amsterdam. I moved in April, so for the 2010 world cup I was alone in a new country, no friends, no one to watch it with. I found on Facebook a group or Argentineans living in Amsterdam to watch the games with. We had almost zero chance of winning that world cup, but we all felt that having Maradona on the bench (and Messi on the field) could make a miracle happen. I'm sure they (Diego and Leo) felt that too.
I remember being with complete strangers, sharing that hope, in a dutch bar covered by argentinean flags, singing the song that Rodrigo composed for him. It was impossible not to bond. Those strangers became my friends for the first years of my life there, and the national team and Maradona were what brought us together.
Loving football and living abroad in 2010, it was impossible to escape the association between Maradona and Argentina. At work, he ultimately became part of my identity, to the point where a picture of the hand of god ended up being the cover of my thesis. It was a way of honouring, him, my love for the sport, and for my country.
These are just two of the many ways in which Maradona has been a part of my life. There are many more, some direct, others indirect, like the founding of Metrica Sports, or many of the friendships I have because of football. But in all cases, they are things I experienced, things that marked me. They are not some general emotion or memory shared by millions. They are personal, they are mine.
I believe that's why so many people cried and mourned his death. It's because while Maradona is a global, abstract, god-like phenomena, for most Argentinians he is also a personal experience. He is a wonder of the world, but also part of the life of each one of us, like an uncle, a father, or a friend are. If you are argentinian, he means something to you (whether you like it or not).
There was plenty of genius in his life, there were also many mistakes. But in any case, I'll be forever grateful for his existence. I wouldn't be who I am without it. Like the great Fontanarrosa said "I don't care what Maradona did with his life. I care about what he did with mine".