A new documentary shows the incredible rise and fall of Diego Maradona at Napoli, The World Game's Nick Stoll chatted to director Asif Kapadia ahead of it's Australian release.
Football is full of contradictions and no one personifies the contrasts of the sport more than Diego Maradona.
All that is good and all that is bad, all that is intoxicating and revolting, the magic and mayhem, glory and greed.
From the greatest triumphs to the most agonising defeats - Maradona experienced it all, and so did those watching him - whether they were cheering or booing.
In a new documentary, Diego Maradona, released in Australia this Thursday, the man himself describes football as “a game of deceit.”
Deception is a central theme that runs right through this documentary - and no one deceived quite like Maradona.
For 21 years he deceived opposing defenders, referees, coaches - both his own and opposing tacticians.
But while he was deceiving opponents on the pitch, people claiming to represent him, to protect him, to be his friend were also deceiving him.
Maradona, who was thrust onto the world stage as a poor 15-year-old boy, out of necessity to survive the mayhem around him, started to deceive himself.
There was ‘Diego’, the shy kid from the slums in Argentina, a self-described ‘mama’s boy’, who just wanted to play football.
Then there was ‘Maradona’, an alter-ego of sorts who was ultra confident, puffing out his chest and unafraid of anyone.
“For Diego, I would go to the end of the world... But with Maradona, I wouldn't take a step," Fernando Signorini, Maradona’s trusted physical trainer explains in the film.
It is this duality that Director Asif Kapadia focuses his wonderful documentary on.
“You look at him off the pitch and he looks like a vulnerable kid, the same person puts on a shirt and goes on to the pitch and he’s this big man. He grows in stature,” Kapadia told The World Game.
Kapadia, a lifelong football fan who grew up watching Maradona as a child, said that making the film made him realise how vulnerable Maradona was at the time.
“You look through the archive and you see when he first signs for Napoli (age 23), you see his clear bright eyes and you see he has a really nice sweet smile. And at some point it’s gone,” Kapaida says.
“You think ‘what happened?’, it’s pressure. In the case of Napoli it’s love. But you can love someone too much.”
Napoli signed Maradona from Barcelona in 1984, having just survived relegation from Serie A by a point the season before.
Maradona was viewed by the fans as the club’s, and the city which was one of the poorest in Europe at the time, as no less than a savior.
The documentary opens with the incredible scenes from the day he was announced.
Tens of thousands of fans jumping and singing on the roof of the press briefing room. The club president denying the involvement of the mafia in funding the transfer and Maradona, bright-eyed and bewildered by the chaos his presence has caused.
But that chaos would be nothing compared to the epic scenes when he delivered Napoli their first Serie A title in 1987.
The movie shows the wild celebrations that took over the city and lasted for weeks.
The collective joy was so much that the living teased the dead by hanging a banner outside the city’s biggest cemetery that read: ‘You don’t know what you have missed!’
Kapadia, who won an Oscar for his film Amy, compares Maradona’s story to a Greek tragedy and a Shakesperian play.
“He’s a street fighter. He needed Naples and Naples needed him. They loved each other too much that you know it was always going to end badly.”
“It’s all very Shakesperian or a Greek tragedy. It’s like a soldier who rises up to become this emperor, but those same people who raise him up will bring him down."
Maradona’s fame rose to inhumane levels - never before seen footage shows how he could never leave his house without being mobbed.
The boy who dreamed of playing professional football so he could buy his parents a house became a prisoner in his own home during the day.
At night was a different story.
He was viewed as a deity in Napoli, but Maradona himself admits, “I was no saint.”
During his peak at Napoli, Maradona would play Sunday - often scoring or setting up the crucial goal - and party on that night.
Fuelled by cocaine, that party would only conclude on Tuesday night. On Wednesday he would begin to detox and train hard ahead of the next match on Sunday. And so his routine would go.
As long as he kept performing on the pitch everyone was happy to look away.
But everything would change the day Maradona’s Argentina knocked out hosts Italy at the 1990 FIFA World Cup in his beloved Naples. The love of the fans and the protection he had from the authorities all started to crumble.
He would leave Napoli a year later, and from then on, as one journalist in the documentary states, almost everything he did was a failure. Whether it was playing for Sevilla or Boca Juniors, coaching the national team or even his short-lived television show.
Kapadia interviewed Maradona for over three hours on three separate occasions for the documentary and said the process made him see a different side of someone who has become the butt of many jokes over recent years.
“The cliche is that he’s now a bit mad, that he’s a terrible guy, he’s chaos. When I met him he was at peace. He looked really well, he said.
“He looked healthy, his brain was clear. He’s really witty and charming.
“You get him on a good day and he’s great. But you get him on a bad day and you better not be there. He has mood swings, he’s on medication.
“When I see videos of people making fun of him on Twitter or Instagram where people are making fun of him, I feel bad for him now. Because I actually like him.
“I think he's a guy who's struggling. He's essentially an addict. He's trying to stay alive.
“When you meet him you realise he’s not this big tough guy. He sometimes looks a bit lost and needs help and that’s what I took away from him.”
Diego Maradona, in cinemas from July 25, is a must-watch for any football fan, and like Kapadia’s other two films Senna and Amy can be enthralling even if you do not know much about the subject’s life.