In the second leg semi-final where Napoli faced Bayern Munich in the UEFA Cup in 1989, something remarkable happened. Something tending towards the sublime: a short man named Diego Maradona danced- with a football.
He first hops. Opus’s hit rock song, titled ‘Live is Life’, blares out Olympiastadion’s speakers. Diego snaps his feet at the grass and elegantly throws the ball in the air. He watches it return, his brisk, strong thighs showing as it always has. His feet lightly spring of the ground to the quick-paced rhythm of the “la la la” of the song- the ball rests on his head. He now juggles the ball with those thighs. He skips and hops as he does so. Maradona’s cocaine-driven, flamboyant moves echo his playful style which would show itself in the match against Bayern. In it, he assisted Careca twice, got fouled dozens of time, glided past players like Flick and Kögl. A typical Diego display. Napoli actually went on to win the UEFA Cup, the only time in their history. His pre-match dance, however, is what seems most admirable. The spectacle before the match playfully represents ‘the beautiful game’ (in the words of Maradona’s counterpart, Pelé). The Stadio San Paolo still plays Opus’s ‘Live is Life’ before matches today.
The chorus to Opus’s ‘Live is Life’ is, in itself, particularly emblematic. While its title is written ‘Live is Life’, it sounds as though the song’s singers chant ‘life is life’. It might be that we are not to take the pronunciation of the verb as in ‘to live’, but instead, we should take the pronunciation of the song in terms of its adjective, as in “ongoing” or “alive”. Diego Maradona’s tap dance is alive, and his legacy will always be alive- for better or for worse. Life is life, but his complex impact on football and the life of his legacy will never die.
RIP, Diego Maradona and your ‘hand of God’.