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The Most Human of Immortals

The day that Diego Maradona said goodbye, as his voice cracked and the place that had always been home heaved and sobbed, his mind drifted to the mistakes that he had made, the price that he had paid.


In his valedictory moment, he did not seek absolution. All he asked, instead, was that the sport that he had loved and that had adored him in return, the one that he had mastered, the one he had illuminated, the one he lifted into an art, was not tarnished by all that he had done.



The last line of his speech that day — the final time he graced La Bombonera, home of Boca Juniors, the club that held him closest to its heart — became an Argentine aphorism: “La pelota no se mancha,” he told the adoring crowd. The ball does not show the dirt.

那天是他最后一次来到博卡青年队(Boca Juniors)的主场糖果盒球场(La Bombonera),这仍是对他最亲的俱乐部,他演讲的最后一句话成为了一句阿根廷格言:“La pelota no se mancha,”他对着崇拜他的球迷说。球不沾污。

It is certainly possible that Diego Armando Maradona, who died Wednesday at age 60, was the finest soccer player ever to draw breath, though that is a subject of hot and unyielding debate. Less contentious is the idea that no other player has ever inspired such fierce devotion.

于本周三去世、享年60岁的迭戈·阿曼多·马拉多纳(Diego Armando Maradona)当然可能是有史以来最伟大的足球运动员,尽管这个话题一直有激烈而无休止的争论。但争论较少的观点是,从没有哪位球员曾像他那样激发如此炽烈的热爱。

There is something approaching a cult in his name in Naples, the overlooked and demeaned port city that he transformed into the center of the soccer universe for a few, glorious years at the peak of his career. The city’s mayor on Wednesday suggested the stadium that houses his former club, Napoli, should be renamed for him. That privilege currently falls to St. Paul.

在那不勒斯,他的名字几乎成为一种崇拜,在他生涯巅峰期的几年辉煌里,这个被忽视和贬低的港口城市被他变成了足球世界的中心。周三,该市市长建议以他的名字重新命名他曾效力过的那不勒斯俱乐部的主场。目前享有其冠名特权的人是圣保罗(St. Paul)。

In Argentina, Maradona’s homeland — which declared three days of national mourning once his death was announced — there has long been a church in his honor. For many, Maradona was a quasi-religious experience.


He was no straightforward icon. He struggled with drug addiction for decades. He was thrown out of a World Cup in disgrace after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Health troubles plagued him, testament to a life of excess. He did not acknowledge his son, Diego, for years. In his later life, he became estranged from his ex-wife, Claudia Villafañe, and from his two daughters, Giannina and Dalma. There were allegations of domestic abuse toward one former girlfriend. There were guns and associations with organized crime.

他不是个简单的偶像。他在毒瘾中挣扎了几十年。因为兴奋剂检测呈阳性,他耻辱地被逐出了世界杯赛场。健康问题困扰着他,证明他一直过着毫无节制的放荡生活。他曾有多年不肯认自己的儿子迭戈(Diego)。到晚年,他疏远了前妻克劳狄娅·维拉法妮(Claudia Villafañe),以及两个女儿吉安妮娜(Giannina)和达尔玛(Dalma)。一名前女友指控他家暴。他还与枪支和有组织犯罪扯上过关系。

Maradona never shied away from acknowledging that he had made mistakes, even as he failed to stop making them. The tendency — understandable, sincere, unavoidable — as soccer reeled from the news of his death, as the eulogies flowed from Lionel Messi (“eternal”) and from Cristiano Ronaldo (“a genius”) and from Pelé (“a legend”), was to avoid his flaws and his weaknesses, to strike his demons from memory out of respect, out of affection.

马拉多纳从来不否认自己犯的错,即使他无法停止继续犯错。当足球界因他的死讯震动,利昂内尔·梅西(Lionel Messi)(“不朽”)、克里斯蒂亚诺·罗纳尔多(Cristiano Ronaldo)(“一位天才”)以及贝利(“一个传奇”)的悼词纷至沓来,人们——可以理解地、真诚地、不可避免地——倾向于回避他的缺点和弱点,出于尊敬和爱戴,把他的心魔踢出记忆。

And yet without mention of those troubles, Maradona’s story is not cleansed. It is contorted. Those struggles did not improve him as a player. Instead, they would prevent him from achieving all that he might have done and, eventually, shorten his career.


But if the flaws diminished what Maradona was, they burnished what he represented to those who watched him, those who adored him. That such beauty could emerge from such tumult made him mean something more; it gave him a resonance that stretched beyond even his outsize ability. His darkness sharpened the contours of his light.


Thirty-two years before Maradona was born, the great Argentine writer Borocotó — editor of El Gráfico, the prestigious, trailblazing sports magazine — suggested the country should erect a statue to the so-called pibe: the dusty-faced street kid with the “trickster eyes,” “a mane of hair rebelling against the comb” and the “sparkling gaze” who represented not only Argentina’s soccer culture, but also its self-image as a nation.

在马拉多纳出生的32年前,伟大的阿根廷作家博罗科托(Borocotó)——久负盛名的开创性体育杂志《足球画报》(El Gráfico)的编辑——建议,阿根廷应该为所谓的“小子”建一座雕像:那是个街头小孩的形象,尘土满面,有一双“骗子般的眼睛”,“一头梳不顺的浓密头发”,“目光如炬”,不仅代表阿根廷的足球文化,也能代表这个国家的自我意象。

Maradona was the platonic ideal of a pibe, all virtuoso skill and impetuous cunning. He captured the spirit Borocotó made immortal more than any player — more than anyone could have thought possible — not just when he was a teenager, fresh from the potrero, but throughout his career.


All of those iconic images of Maradona are monuments to the spirit of the pibe: leaping high above Peter Shilton, the England goalkeeper, the goal that he would joke — with the “Picaresque laugh” that met Borocotó’s description — was scored by the Hand of God; dancing, a couple of minutes later, through the entire England team to score “the goal of the century,” the strike that would prompt the commentator Victor Hugo Morales to declare him a “comet from the sky”; facing up to the entire Belgian team, the ball at his feet, a picture of fear on their faces.

马拉多纳所有的标志性形象都是代表这种小子精神的丰碑:高高跃过英格兰门将彼德·希尔顿(Peter Shilton)的样子,他开玩笑——“流浪汉一样的笑”也符合博罗科托的描述——说那一球来自上帝之手;几分钟后,他就迈着舞步穿越整支英格兰队的防线,打进“世纪进球”,那次射门让解说员维克多·雨果·莫拉莱斯(Victor Hugo Morales)宣布他就是“从天而降的彗星”;面对整支比利时队,球在他脚下,对手脸上充满恐惧的样子被照片捕捉。

No matter how high he flew, Maradona never strayed from his roots; he was a pibe when he first emerged, he was a pibe when he almost single-handedly dragged Argentina to the World Cup in 1986, and back to the final four years later. He was a pibe when Barcelona made him the most expensive player on the planet and when he took Napoli to not one, but two Serie A titles. He was a pibe even as he conquered the world.


That was his glory, and it was also his downfall. How, after all, could a boy who had never grown up expect to cope with the world he found himself in, with the expectation and the demands, with the idolization and the temptation? The light shone so brightly that the darkness in its wake could only grow.


Maradona himself never made excuses for his missteps, though that is not the same as atoning for them. As he told the filmmaker Emir Kusturica in 2008, he held himself responsible for all that he had done, good and bad. But he knew, too, that at some point a line had to be drawn between Maradona the person and Maradona the player.

马拉多纳从不为自己的行差踏错找借口,尽管这与赎罪是两码事。正如他在2008年告诉电影导演埃米尔·库斯图里卡(Emir Kusturica)的那样,他对自己所做的一切负责,无论好坏。但他也知道,总有一天,人们必须在马拉多纳这个人与马拉多纳这名球员之间划清界限。

His legacy as the former is a complex one: a brilliant, troubled individual, one who suffered pain but inflicted it, too, a boy and then a man who crumbled and cracked under the pressure of a situation he did not have the tools to survive.


But his meaning as the latter is more straightforward. Maradona encapsulated an ideal, he infatuated a nation, he turned a mere game into a form of art. The pibe is a quintessentially Argentine complex but it is one that generates global understanding: the impish, improvised brilliance of the innocent.


Maradona himself always saw soccer as his salvation, his deliverance. In 2005, in a brief phase as a television personality, he was asked what he might like to offer up as an epitaph. “Thanks to soccer,” he said. “It is the sport that gives me the greatest joy, the greatest freedom. It is like touching the sky with your hands. Thanks to the ball.”


His flaws and his demons will not be forgotten, not even with time. His memory will always be a complex one. But no matter how deep the darkness, it should not be allowed to obscure the light that he brought. “La pelota no se mancha.” The ball does not show the dirt.

即使时间流逝,他的缺点和他的心魔也不会被遗忘。他留下的记忆将永远是复杂的。但无论黑暗有多深,都无法遮蔽他所带来的光芒。“La pelota no se mancha”。球不沾污。
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