Maradona gives in

So, Diego Maradona did cheat.

Well duh. We all know that. Still, this is pretty big news. This is Pete Rose admitting he gambled. This is Barry Bonds admitting he juiced. (That last one hasn’t happened yet, and probably never will, but you never know.)

Maradona is about as vilified an athlete as you can find in England. He’s the man that stole England’s 1986 World Cup Final appearance. He’s lied about cheating for over 20 years. And he’s an easy target – a sports star fallen from grace, fat and formerly coked out.

A little background on why I care about this.

I’ve always fancied myself “sort of” a soccer fan. I’d love to call myself a fanatic, following every game and screaming at the top of my lungs for a goal, but in reality I am nearly fanatical in my indifference. I root for England’s national team because, as an unabashed anglophile, I’m supposed to. If you ask me, I’ll instantly tell you I’m a Liverpool fan, even though I couldn’t name three players on the team (especially since Michael Owen left).

I was a fan, once. I went through a phase in college – a phase that corresponded perfectly with a cable provider that included the Fox Soccer World channel – where I actually got to watch soccer. And it was fun. I’ve even got the flag of St. James to throw out on the flagpole during the World Cup.

So as an England National Team “fan,” I know of two years that stand out more than any other in English soccer history: 1966, the only year England won the World Cup tournament, and twenty years later – 1986, the year that Diego Maradona cheated England of its World Cup hopes.

Even I’ve seen footage of Maradona’s two goals during the 1986 World Cup. His second – an amazing feat of dribbling that proved his worth as one of the world’s best players at the time – led to a 2-1 win over England in the Semi-Finals. The first, though, is the real star – a goal scored as Maradona palmed the ball into the goal.

Duh. Hands are illegal in soccer.

When asked, he claimed it was “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God”. Every Englishman with a passing fancy of soccer hated the man. Argentina loved him.

Then he got fat. Addicted to coke, he nearly died. But he never admitted that he cheated.

Until now. From an article in The Sun:

“If I could apologise and go back and change history I would do. But the goal is still a goal, Argentina became world champions and I was the best player in the world.

“I cannot change history. All I can do now is move on.”

I have a feeling that it’s going to take more than this sudden revelation for England fans to finally move on.

This was lovingly handwritten on February 1st, 2008