REVIEW: Touched By God, by Diego Maradona

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The debate over who is the greatest footballer of all time is one that will be argued for many years to come. Each generation brings a new name or two to the table. Discussions will range from their ability with the ball to their contribution to the team. No matter who you choose as your greatest, two players who will form the discussion are Maradona and Messi.

Both lightened up the footballing world in their own, unique way. Both touched the hearts of passionate fans in Barcelona. Both served as captain for their country on the biggest stage. Both have won countless trophies and accolades. However, only one of the two has won the World Cup. So far.

It is the 1986 triumph for Argentina that forms the subject of a new book written by Diego Maradona, alongside Argentinian journalist Daniel Arcucci. I’ve read Diego’s previous autobiography, ‘El Diego’, and enjoyed his madcap tale of life as a child in his homeland and his journey to sporting excellence.

However, I did wonder whether he could pull off a long form version of a story which was largely covered in the previous book. The short answer is yes. But since you’ll likely want to know more than just that, I best tell you why this book is worth shelling out a few quid on.

The way Diego writes ‘Touched By God: How We Won The Mexico ’86 World Cup’ hooks you into what he is recalling. It has a feel the whole way through that he’s talking to you down the pub rather than leaving things vague and opaque.

When describing the team’s preparations for the World Cup, he describes the sacrifices he went through in order to please his club, Napoli, and his countries officials. Rather than moan about having to take flight after flight, Diego revels in the drama.

He has a real knack for describing events in the most positive and captivating way possible and he left me smiling at every opportunity. One such incident involved the captain of the 1978 winning side, Daniel Passarella, and some long distance phone calls.

I get the feeling the two of them didn’t see eye to eye all the time. Not least because Maradona was made captain for the ’86 tournament ahead of the centre back. The off the field stories are really at the heart of this warming book.

It takes the format of a near day by day account of the summer of 1986, with the introductory chapter about the years leading up to the World Cup, in which Diego went from being sent off in 1982 competitions, to moving to Napoli (who had never won Serie A in their history before his signing) and many injuries and scraps which threatened his place in the World Cup squad.

The undoubted highlighted of the book is the chapter about the much-talked about England match. Now I have a feeling I’m not spoiling anything when I say that Maradona scored two goals in the match; one which has gone down in history for the right reasons and one which went down in history for all the wrong reasons.