Diego Maradona turns 60: the difficult passage through Barcelona and the day they almost ruined his career

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On September 24, 1983, Diez withdrew from the Camp Nou by ambulance and with a broken ankle, after Andoni Goikoetxea’s cunning foul.

He broke my ankle in our field, 60 meters from their arch. I never thought he was going to come looking for me with such bad temper. When I stop the ball, I feel a ‘crack’, like when a wood breaks”.

September 24, 1983. There were 14 minutes of the second half at the Camp Nou and Barcelona won 2-0 against Athletic Bilbao, the last LaLiga champion. Diego Armando Maradona seized the ball a few meters from his goal and, before he touched it a second time, misfortune happened.

The Basque Andoni Goikoetxea, who seconds ago had left his central marker position while advancing with his sights set on his goal, he threw himself with the spike plugs and hit Diego’s left ankle. It was a strong and ruthless offense, the kind that did not generate screams and complaints from the rostrum, but rather a silence of compassion for the victim.

His first reaction after falling to the ground was to turn around and stare at his rival. Then, he looked at his ankle and imagined the long recovery it would take (“I was thinking of absolutely nothing. I was focused on the injury that could take me away from the courts “). Finally, the pain was evident and he began to roll on the floor. Goikoetxea received a yellow and Diego left the stadium by ambulance.

“Fracture of the peroneal malleolus of the left ankle, with deviation. Internal lateral ligament tear with tear. The operation is essential, which is expected to be performed as soon as possible, “the medical report reported.

A few hours after the game, he underwent emergency surgery at the Asepeyo clinic in the Catalan city. “During one of those days in the hospital, I was watching a match that Athletic Bilbao was playing and I see that Goikoetxea is being carried on a litter. That hurt me more than the injury itself, “he said in an interview for Colombian television.

A week later, Maradona, who at 22 was measuring his words and was not yet that verbose and impulsive figure that he built over the years, apologized to his executioner: “The injury has a name and it is Goikoetxea, but I forgive him. I know he ain’t no saint but I can’t live forever with a grudge”.

Meanwhile, the statements of “Bilbao butcher“, Nickname that the central defender received after injuring Diego, they avoided any possibility of reconciliation:” I do not consider myself to be a victim or guilty. Soccer has a risk and in this case it was Maradona the same as it could have happened to me ”.

Along the same lines, the words of the then Athletic coach, Javier Clemente, were inscribed: “I think that in war, you have to go to war.”

Although the Spanish specialists estimated a six-month recovery process, Diego returned to Buenos Aires and, together with the doctor Ruben Oliva, he did it in half the time. However, the road was not easy.

“My mother was crying and the journalists said she was not going to play again,” Maradona recalled. When I got out of bed and put my left foot down, my whole leg hurt. ‘Will these sons of bitches beat me?’he thought. And quickly I repeated to myself that no, I was going to beat them. The desire to want to play football was stronger ”.

It took him 106 days to return to a court. It was on January 8, 1984 against Sevilla at the Camp Nou, on the 18th date of LaLiga. “I played the whole game limping,” he recalled. Despite the discomfort that, as the minutes passed, turned into pain, Fluff scored two of the three goals for Barcelona. Undoubtedly, a return that exceeded expectations and that served as a reward for the great effort that his recovery demanded.

Also had a premature comeback Goikoetxea, who still preserves as a museum piece the loot with which he almost ruined Maradona’s career. Although initially the Competition Committee sanctioned him with 18 suspension matches, a group of jurists appealed to justice and argued that he was not intentional, to reduce the sentence. First the punishment decreased to ten matches and then to eight. Finally, the central defender served only six disqualification dates.

Both met again in the final of the Copa del Rey in 1984. The preview of the confrontation between Barcelona and Athletic de Bilbao foreshadowed the worst. Coach Clemente had called Maradona an “imbecile”, who responded without hesitation: “He doesn’t have the balls to tell me to my face”. For his part, César Luis Menotti, who had made his debut as Barça coach on March 12, 1983, anticipated the facts: “We are prepared to play in any field, even violence.”

Said and done: the kings Juan Carlos I de Borbón and Sofía, from the box, witnessed one of the most vehement fights that took place on a soccer field. After the final whistle that made Athletic champion (they won 1-0), Diego began to argue with Jose Maria Nunez and gave him a head butt. He also gave a knee in the jaw to Miguel Ángel Sola, who suffered a concussion and received five stitches on the lower lip. Then the pitched battle began.

It was the last game in which Maradona wore the Barcelona shirt. After the scandal, he received a three-month suspension, but failed to meet them because he left for Napoli. Thus the end of his time in Barcelona was marked, which, although he had glorious moments, did not live up to the expectations and talent that he was able to later spread in the lands of southern Italy.

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