Asif Kapadia has already delivered two of the finest documentaries in modern film history with “Senna” and “Amy”. Taking archive footage and audio then cutting to tell the remarkable tales of remarkable people. Both films deserve to be seen by you and, if you have already seen them, to be seen again.
Kapadia has now returned with the most remarkable tale of one of the most remarkable footballers of all time.
Let us be precise.
Kapadia has now returned with the most remarkable tale of the greatest footballer of all time.
Yes he is.
I care not one single jot about how many goals Messi has scored or how many European Cups Ronaldo has lifted. I am entirely disinterested in what a lovely man Pele was. I can barely muster a passing interest in how many times Pele lifted the World Cup either. None of it matters in comparison with the skill, the vision, the flair, the history, the troubles, the strifes, the faults, the failings, the debauchery and the beauty of Diego.
Born into a life of absolute poverty in the slums of Villa Fiorito on the outskirts of Buenos Aries he dragged, kick, fought and dazzled his way to being the greatest footballer in the world, a legend, a hero and the most loved man ever to walk the streets of Naples…before finding himself dragged, kicked, beaten and shunned to being the most hated man in the world.
Critics of Diego, and their are many, like to dwell on two things; that goal in the 1986 World Cup against England and his drug use. “The Hand of God” brings a level of rage and bile that is, genuinely, incredible to observe. Grown men bent all out of shape and reduced to gibbering, ranting, raving, wrecks who seem to have convinced themselves that this was the only time that anyone has ever cheated in a football match. The truth of course is that not only have other people cheated in football matches but that, gasp, some Englishmen have cheated in football matches! Indeed in the match itself Diego was elbowed by one of England’s players…an offence that should have seen a red card issued…and was repeatedly fouled too. His “offence” was not to cheat but to cheat against a side who, at that point, still believed that they were a genuine force in World football. Of course, the fact that he was an Argentinian and that this match came so soon after the Falkland’s War probably plays a part here too.
I love England.
I would love to see them win the World Cup.
I would travel from up here in the footballing wilderness that is Scotland to celebrate with my friends were it to happen.
But…I don’t care that Diego used a hand for that goal.
I just don’t.
Then we come to the drugs.
Always the drugs.
Specifically Diego took cocaine.
A lot of it.
Not a performance enhancing drug.
This wasn’t Lance Armstrong doping his way to sporting success.
This was a man who had grown up in a whirl of media stalking, adoration, deification and who had fallen under the “charms” of organised crime families using an illegal drug after hours.
To which I say…
I don’t care.
It’s a dangerous game to start judging people by an impossible standard.
“Let he who is without sin…” and all that.
Diego snorted industrial weights of cocaine…he was, and remains, a drug addict. That he was able to then continue to play at the level he did is nothing short of a miracle. Imagine how good he would have been had he been drug free when he was at his peak.
Like me Diego was human.
He was flawed.
He was a sinner in a world that demanded he be a Saint.
What Kapadia has done here is to capture all the aspects of the man…the loving son, the child genius with a football, the poor boy made rich, the best player in the world, the World Cup winner, the hero of Naples, the father, the good, the bad, the ugly, the drugs, the highs and the lows. By the end I found myself more in awe, and more in love, with the man than I had been before.
Some people will be unable, or unwilling, to accept his flaws and foibles, let alone forgive them. They prefer the vanity project that is CR7 or the brand that is Messi…carefully managed and controlled non-personalities who, thanks to playing with the best players of their generation and for the best teams in the world have managed to achieve, well, exactly what one would expect them to.
I see a man who achieved something that had never before been achieved with a side that nobody ever believed could achieve it. I see the perils of fame and the poison of unchecked adoration. I see the ugliness of addiction. I see myself. I see the man, the myth and the legend.