By Ian Zvoma
My love for football started at a very tender age so much so that before I learnt to write probably one of the shortest names on the planet (my name) I could kick a ball primarily because of the influence of my uncle Herbert Takawira who played soccer at the highest level in the 1970s through to 80s.
It was however, not until 1983 when I watched my first Super League game as the Premier Soccer League was known then that I totally fell in love with the beautiful game. It was a match between Caps United and Dynamos at Rufaro Stadium.
I was in Grade one then and it was obviously a landmark development to be at the ceremonial home of local football.
However, the day was not important to me because I got my first chance to watch top flight football, but because I saw this great player, he was so good that he could do anything with ball and some of the things he could do with his legs many present day footballers cannot even imagine to do with their hands and feet combined. His name: Stanford â€˜Stixâ€™ Mtizwa.
Some say George Shaya was better, Moses Chunga great and Peter Ndlovu the greatest, but to me it has always been â€œStixâ€. His chest control was magical, his touch phenomenal and his shooting clinical.
I will even boldly declare that he was robbed of the soccer star of the year in 1988 when it was won by one Masimba Dinyero who was more famous for his long throws than his skill on the ball with the foot or is it feet.
Even when I meet â€œStixâ€Â these days now that my love for the game via the academic root made me a presenter and a soccer analyst I see the greatest there was, there is and there will ever be in Zimbabwean football, thatâ€™s â€œStixâ€ Mtizwa.
I could go on and on about â€œStixâ€ and even write the thickest volume on this great football legend, but the story today is not about him.
Its about the only man I believe was better. His name DIEGO ARMANDO MARADONA who turns 50 today (Saturday). NOW THATâ€™S A FOOTBALL GENIUS.
A lot has been said in comparison to PELE with those who believe in the Brazilianâ€™sÂ abilities saying he was the greatest. I will admit that I never saw Pele in action during his heydays so my judgement might be biased.
However, from the little I have seen in terms of video footage, I AM NOT CONVINCED. HONESTLY I AM NOT.
He might have statistics to back this claim, but the game was not technical then and how many teams played at the world by the way???
BUT haveyou ever stopped to think that if Pele had been Argentine and played in the 1986 World Cup, DO YOU HONESTLY THINK HE WOULD HAVE WON IT FOR ARGENTINA THE WAY MARADONA DID?
Its true Pele was great and in all honesty a football legend, but he was also privileged to play alongside the best such as Gerson, Tostao and Jairzinho.
On the other hand, Maradona did not have such gifted teammates at Napoli where he single-handedly won two championships and one UEFA Cup and in the Argentine colours where, thanks to his unmatched talent he gave them the 1986 World Cup.
But again this is by no means a comparison between Pele and Maradona. It is a celebration of the great Diegoâ€™s contribution to the great game as he turns 50.
Diego Armando Maradona was born on October 30, 1960, in Villa Fiorito, province of Buenos Aires, Argentina. He was raised in an underprivileged family and spent his early childhood playing football in the streets of his neighborhood.
He made his debut at the age of 16 and throughout his professional career he played 692 official games scoring 352 goals. He played 90 games for the Argentine National Team and scored 33 goals, 8 of them in World Cup.
He was a 5-time maximum scorer and got 10 titles with National Juvenile World Cup (1979), Boca Juniors (1981), Barcelona (Copa del Rey 1983), World Cup (1986), Napoli (Scudetto 1987 and 1990), Italian Cup (1987), UEFA Cup (1989), Italian Super Cup (1991) and Artemio Franchi Cup (1993).
Writing on goal.com, Sergio Chesi of Italy problably describes Maradonaâ€™s contribution to football in Italy better.
He says: â€œWe have to make a distinction on how Diego is remembered in Naples and how the rest of Italy consider him. There’s just one thing that join all Italian fans: here Diego is considered the best player ever.”
In Naples he is a true god, because of many reasons. First of all in football matters: Napoli is a historical Italian team, but they never won as much as Inter, Juventus and Milan. The Partenopei’s most exciting moment was in the second half of the 80’s, when Diego came here – in those years they were the strongest and most spectacular Italian team thanks toâ€¦above all Maradona, captain, leader and star of that team.
Thanks to his talent, Napoli won two championships and one UEFA Cup, victories never reached after. Diego had the ability to change a normal team into a winning team and a complicated city into a winning cityâ€.
Some even say he was the symbol of the 1980’s in Napoli which simply means he was Napoli in the 80s. THATâ€™S WHAT I CALL A LEGEND.
Others say much of the Maradona love stems from his heroic performance in the 1986 World Cup as he did not only score the most beautiful goal in the history of football in Mexico against England, when he dribbled 6 English players including the goalkeeper and scored an amazing goal, but he also played a starring role as Argentina lifted the World Cup.
Some will try to paint a black brush on his illustrious career because of his controversy with banned substances, but according to vivadiego.com,â€nobody can judge somebody else’s life. Even less can anyone judge such a difficult life as the one of a world famous personality.
â€œBut we must all judge Maradona for what he showed on the football fields all over the world, and we will certainly all agree that the spectacle he brought to the world of sports is something really unique and unforgettableâ€.
FOR THIS I SAY BRAVO TO THE GREATEST FOOTBALLER OF ALL TIME, HAPPY BIRTHDAY MY HERO.