Title – Maradona ’86

Director – Sam Blair

Length – 30 minutes with commercials

Installment – #2 of 8 in 30 for 30′s Soccer Stories

Review – “The pleasure of demolishing idols is directly proportional to the need to erect them.”

Those words spoken in Maradona ’86 summarize what is an eternal truth about how we view the best athletes in sports.  There’s nothing we love more as a society and as a sports fandom than lifting up athletes and tearing them down.  In the history of sports, it’s rare to find someone who could quench those thirsts of ours, even simultaneously at times, like Diego Maradona.

The 30 for 30 soccer short that explores Diego Maradona’s historic World Cup run in 1986, appropriately titled Maradona ’86, feels in many ways like a story that is much larger than sports.  The narration excerpted in parts from Soccer in Sun and Shadow adds to the dramatization of this particular soccer story.  Diego Maradona is presented not so much as an athlete, but some kind of mythical force prone to destruction or immortality at any given time.

The film begins by setting the stage for the 1986 World Cup.  Argentina had lifted the trophy on home soil in 1978, but Maradona was disgraced in 1982 with a controversial red card during a second round loss against Brazil.  He had not been a part of Argentina’s World Cup winning side in 1978, so 1986 would be his moment of destiny, for better or worse.

Maradona’s performance in Mexico was one of the greatest in the history of the World Cup.  He scored 5 goals and was given the golden ball as the best player in the tournament.  Maradona ’86 weaves in newsreel footage from the 1986 World Cup as well as interviews with Maradona from the time and plenty of highlights from the games with audio from South American commentator Hugo Morales.  The raw footage alone is worth tuning in for as it’s a rare glimpse into that time for American soccer fans.

The centerpiece of Maradona ’86 are his two goals versus England in a matchup that faced the political background of the recent Falklands War.

Imagine Peyton Manning throwing two of the most famous touchdowns in NFL history in the same Super Bowl within minutes of each other.  Imagine LeBron James hitting two of the most famous shots in NBA history in the same quarter of Game 7 of the NBA Finals.  Imagine Sidney Crosby netting two of the most talked about goals in NHL history in the same period of a Stanley Cup Final game.

That’s exactly what Diego Maradona did in the 1986 World Cup Quarterfinal versus England.

After 51 minutes, Maradona scored his “Hand of God” goal to put Argentina up 1-0.

Just four minutes later, he scored what has been called “The Goal of the Century” after a weaving run through the entire England team.

While Morales’ commentary of the “cosmic kite” scoring one of the greatest goals in soccer history is well-known, it was fascinating to see and hear him question the “Hand of God” from the outset.

For me, the goal was with his hand, I’m celebrating it with all my soul, but I have to tell you what I think… and God forgive me what I have to say against England today, he scored a goal with his hand. What can I say?”

It’s astonishing to think that those two moments could happen just four minutes apart.  If anything, Maradona ’86 misses out on adding layers to the history of that game and those two goals scored by Diego Maradona.  If viewers could hear from other soccer greats on their impressions of Maradona, the “Hand of God” and “The Goal of the Century” it would lift the film.  If viewers aren’t well-versed in their soccer knowledge, they may lose out on just how historic those two goals are.

From there, Maradona ’86 highlights the victories against Belgium and West Germany that gave Argentina its second World Cup triumph.  Maradona was at the center of it all, being called a genius and a cheat at the same time.  He’s one of the most complex, talented athletes to ever play at the highest level and Maradona ’86 unveils a mere fraction of Maradona’s legacy.

The documentary ends with footage of Maradona joyfully juggling a giant soccer ball that looks like Planet Earth, as if he had the whole world in his hands and at his feet.  For a month in 1986, that was certainly the case.

Rating – When you only have just over 20 minutes to tell a story, your hands are tied somewhat as a documentary.  With more time to explore Maradona and Argentina’s soccer history, Maradona ’86 would hit the next level.  If the film explored the context of those two goals versus England and their place in soccer history, it would have added another rating point as well.  If it further explored Maradona’s incredible, combustible career and placed the 1986 World Cup in that context, it would have excelled.  That said, in the limited time available, Maradona ’86 painted a quick portrait of a man who had the entire world at his feet for a moment in time. 7/10

30 for 30: Soccer Stories Review – Hillsborough (10/10)

About Matt Yoder

Award winning sportswriter at The Comeback and Awful Announcing. The biggest cat in the whole wide world.

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