- Title: VARIOUS FILE: FOOTBALL/SOCCER - Maradona is 50 on Saturday
- Date: 28th October 2010
- Summary: BOGOTA, COLOMBIA (MARCH 1, 2005) (REUTERS) OVERWEIGHT DIEGO MARADONA
- Embargoed: 12th November 2010 12:00
- Topics: Sports
- Reuters ID: LVA68QT6FI0HB56DA83O1G8ET62W
- Story Text: Diego Maradona is 50 on Saturday (October 30).
The stocky Argentine was widely seen as one of the world's best-ever players in his 1980s' heyday, but he battled drug addiction, obesity and alcoholism for years after retiring from the game in the 1990s.
Given his turbulent history, Maradona's comeback as Argentina coach in 2008 was a remarkable personal achievement, especially as he had very little experience as a manager.
Rising to stardom from a Buenos Aires slum to lead Argentina to World Cup victory, Maradona's life is the ultimate rags-to-riches story in the soccer-mad country where he has gained the iconic status of Che Guevara or Evita Peron.
The fifth of eight children of a factory worker, Maradona was born on October 30, 1960. He was given his first football as an infant and slept with it under his arm. He made his professional debut with Argentinos Juniors at the age of 15 and first played for Argentina in 1977.
He moved to Boca Juniors in 1981, helped them win the Argentine championship in 1982, and was transferred to Barcelona for a then record 3 million U.S. dollars. He moved to Italy's Napoli two years later.
He was feted as a god by the tifosi as he inspired Napoli to their first league titles in 1987 and 1990 and the UEFA Cup in 1989. But, during a decade at the top of his sport, the success and adoration seemed to blind him as he became embroiled in vice and corruption scandals.
At the peak of his form, he led Argentina to a 3-2 triumph over West Germany in the 1986 World Cup final in Mexico. It was his crowning glory.
Maradona's fall was sudden and swift. After he had coaxed a mediocre Argentina team to their second successive World Cup final in Rome in July 1990, he failed a doping test in Italy in 1991.
He was suspended for 15 months and was also investigated over alleged Mafia ties and later arrested in Argentina for cocaine possession.
He tested positive for a cocktail of drugs during his fourth World Cup in 1994 and was suspended from the tournament. He came back with Boca Juniors in 1995 but failed another drug test two years later before retiring on his 37th birthday.
He had two short stints as a coach in the mid 1990s, with Deportivo Mandiyu and Racing Club. His 23 games produced just three wins.
Meanwhile, Maradona's health continued on a downward spiral.
He was hospitalized in Uruguay in 2000 with heart problems and tests revealed cocaine use. He underwent drug rehabilitation in Cuba.
Appearing overweight, Maradona spent 10 days in 2004 in intensive care in Argentina with heart and breathing problems. He was confined to a psychiatric hospital, then returned to Cuba for more treatment.
Slimmer after a stomach-stapling operation, Maradona launched a successful TV talk show in Argentina in 2005 that lasted for one season.
In May 2007 a clean-shaven Maradona vowed to get fit and stay healthy in his first public appearance since he was hospitalized for alcohol-induced hepatitis. He said then his dream was to be coach of the Argentina national team.
Initially seen as a rank outsider in the race to replace former coach Alfio Basile, Maradona was appointed Argentina coach in November 2008.
A shaky qualifying campaign for the 2010 World Cup finals was followed by bright start in South Africa spearheaded by the brilliant Lionel Messi.
But Argentina's 4-0 thrashing by Germany in quarter-finals ultimately ended Maradona's colourful period at the helm.
The former player was still given a hero's welcome when the squad returned home. But he was soon sacked, less than two years since his headline-grabbing appointment.
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