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Football and the First World War

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See reviews of Rob Cavallini's The Wanderers FC, and Around The World In 95 Games.


Maradona: The Hand of God

Jimmy Burns

This is an updated biography of arguably the world's most gifted, and certainly most controversial, footballer.  It is the story of one man’s rise to global fame – the first footballer as media celebrity – and his drug-fuelled decline culminating in his expulsion from the United States in 1994.

Since its original publication in 1996, this has been rightly regarded as the definitive biography of one of football’s most tormented and brilliant personalities.  The author traces Maradona's steps from the shanty town outside Buenos Aires where he was born, and which did so much to form his explosive temperament, to the psychologist's couch that formed part of his rehab, via the stadiums and inner secrets of clubs like Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Napoli and Seville and the higher political intrigues of Argentinian international football.  A recurrent element of his career has been his extraordinary capacity to come back from the dead as personified by his return to the World Cup in South Africa as coach of the Argentinian international team.   

At considerable risk to himself the author has delved into Maradona’s often murky past. Jimmy Burns pursued his research in several countries on both sides of the Atlantic, gaining access to Maradona's inner circle, and to other key witnesses, such as players, managers, trainers, doctors and officials.   The opening chapter gives a very vivid account of the hostility the author faced in delving into the past of Argentina’s most referred sporting icon.  On the other hand, one of the most fascinating chapters deals with the bizarre events which surrounded Sheffield United Manager Harry Haslam’s attempts to bring then unknown Maradona to England in 1978.

A hero to millions and villain to many others, the author shows how both goals scored against England in the 1986 World Cup personified the same deeply flawed individual:  ‘The first showed Maradona the urchin child who had grown to be a star, still so unsure of his true self as to feel the need to cheat.  The second showed Maradona the hugely gifted player of exceptional skill whose combination of acceleration, control, strength and accuracy translated into unrivalled greatness on the field’.

 This is more than a straight-forward football biography. The quality of the writing and depth of the author’s research into Maradonna’s background are reminiscent of Norman Mailer’s classic boxing book The Fight.  This book is a must for every sports fan.