When the Gallagher brothers noticed Diego Maradona arrive in a bar in Buenos Aires, where they were celebrating the end of the Oasis 1998 South American tour, the memories rushed back. In 1986, the man nicknamed "El Pibe de Oro" (The Golden Kid) dashed the hopes of an entire population by eliminating England's team in the quarter-finals of the World Cup under the scorching heat of Mexico City. Five short minutes were enough for the Argentinian to become a legend, scoring a first goal with his hand - the famous "hand of God" - before leaving the midfield to eliminate half of the opposing team and score a goal considered by many football fans to be the goal of the century.
The kind of memory that leaves its mark, especially when you’re 19 and 14 years old and as infatuated with football as Noel and Liam Gallagher, supporters of the English club, Manchester City since childhood. But when you're in the same bar as a legendary footballer like Diego Maradona, it doesn't matter. The enfants terribles of English rock put their egos aside and with a few friends went to find Maradona, himself in good company. In an interview given to the British media, Liam Gallagher recounted, among the countless “fuckin'”s that punctuate his sentences, how only the two brothers were allowed in for a photo.
Between the models and the lines of illicit powder all over the tables, the two brothers came face to face with Maradona, eyes bulging, sweating profusely, doing football tricks with a bottle top. After a quick photo, the two Oasis members were asked to leave the party. A relative of Maradona's accompanied them to the door and whispered menacingly: "Diego told me that if you go anywhere near one of his women, he’ll have you shot". "Met Maradona not once but 2x and he was the real fucking deal scary but beautiful (…) Proper Rock n Roll footballer no fucker will ever come near him" Liam Gallagher recently recalled paying a final tribute to the Pibe de Oro on Twitter.
Met maradonna not once but 2x and he was the real fucking deal scary but beautiful hash tag blessed— Liam Gallagher (@liamgallagher) November 25, 2020
As explosive with a ball at his feet as a glass in his hand, Diego Armando Maradona was indeed the kind of person who could get you shot. He was an "angel with a dirty face" elevated to the rank of divinity when he arrived in Naples in 1984, where 75,000 spectators came to greet him at the San Paolo stadium. In Naples, Maradona walked on water, brought the fans two national titles and a European title, single-handedly rendering sublime a previously very average team. In return, his team-mates gave him their urine so he’d pass the drugs tests...
Because beyond the football pitch, the darker facets of Maradona's personality were gaining ground. The idol of the Neapolitan people would get lost in wild parties – not dissimilar to those enjoyed by the Gallagher brothers a few years later. A godfather of the local mafia, Carmine Giuliano, offered protection all while supplying him with prostitutes and cocaine. Devastated by the arrival of a child from an extra-marital relationship, whom he refused to acknowledge, Maradona was suspended for fifteen months by the Italian league in 1991, after testing positive for coke in yet another drug test.
The legend wavered but never broke. Able to forgive anything, football fans will undoubtedly justify that the player's demons helped define the contours of his legend: "If Andy Warhol were still alive, he would undoubtedly have put Maradona on his silk-screens, alongside Marilyn Monroe and Mao Tse-tung", laughs filmmaker Emir Kusturica, who devoted a documentary to him in 2008. Indeed Neapolitan leaders have just announced that the San Paolo stadium, named after the patron saint of the city of Naples, will be renamed in honour of Maradona. Proof that when his time was up, the kid from Buenos Aires had become more of a deity than ever, one for whom the angels will just have to make some space.