Maradona, The Hand of God

If you’ve read past issues of our newsletter and committed them to memory, you’ll know I tolerate am passionate about international soccer. I’ve sat bored stiff enraptured at soccer matches in countries all over the world, nodded off during watched countless matches on television, and listened with one ear intently to Bob talk about top players like Franz Beckenbauer, Pelé, and Lionel Messi to name a few.

But perhaps the player I’ve heard most about over the years is Diego Armando Maradona. Born in Argentina, Maradona became famous while playing for Napoli, so a trip to this delightful Italian city in January required a walk down Maradona lane so to speak. I prepped by watching a documentary about Maradona on the plane ride over to Italy, in case I would be quizzed later. It was actually quite fascinating. When introducing Maradona to the city of Naples in 1984, 75,000 people filled Stadio San Paolo, not, mind you, for a game, but rather to just get a glimpse of the 23-year-old phenom.

It’s obvious that Naples is incredibly proud of the seven years Maradona played on the city’s team. Nearly 30 years later, there are reminders of him everywhere. And I should know, because Bob wanted to look at every single one. I waited patiently (?) every time Bob took a picture of a Maradona drawing, poster, statue, or painting. But even my jaded soccer self was entertained by a Diego Armando Maradona shrine at a coffee bar on a cobblestone street in the historic part of Naples. Cafe Nilo has a full-on altar for this soccer “deity” that includes Maradona printed money, images of him as a saint, poems written about him, a lock of his hair, and, in a revolving clear container, wait for it, genuine Maradona tears. If you’re skeptical about this, take a lesson from my experience. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT, question the validity of said items. THEY ARE REAL.

It was worth two delicious cappuccinos at the Cafe to get a glimpse of this shrine, and to feel comfortable taking a picture. Any international soccer fan—like me—definitely won’t want to miss this.

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