Dazzling, infamous, extraordinary, genius, outrageous. Diego Maradona. A flawed football icon.
One of the game’s most gifted players, the Argentine boasted a rare combination of flair, flamboyance, vision and speed which mesmerised fans.
He also outraged supporters with his controversial ‘Hand of God’ goal and plunged into a mire of drug abuse and personal crises off the pitch.
Born 60 years ago in a Buenos Aires shanty town, Diego Armando Maradona escaped the poverty of his youth to become a football superstar considered by some to be even greater than Brazil’s Pele.
The Argentine, who scored 259 goals in 491 matches, pipped his South American rival in a poll to determine the greatest player of the 20th Century, before Fifa changed the voting rules so both players were honoured.
Maradona showed prodigious ability from a young age, leading Los Cebollitas youth team to a 136-game unbeaten streak and going on to make his international debut aged just 16 years and 120 days.
Short and stocky, at just 5ft 5in, he was not your typical athlete.
But his silky skills, agility, vision, ball control, dribbling and passing more than compensated for lack of pace and occasional weight problems.
He may have been a whizz at running rings round hostile defenders but he found it harder to dodge trouble.
Maradona’s 34 goals in 91 appearances for Argentina tell only part of the story of his rollercoaster international career.
He led his country to victory at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico and a place in the final four years later.
In the quarter-final of the earlier tournament, there was a foretaste of the controversy that would later engulf his life.
The match against England already had an extra friction, with the Falklands War between the two countries having taken place only four years beforehand. That on-field edge was to become even more intense.
With 51 minutes gone and the game goalless, Maradona jumped with opposing goalkeeper Peter Shilton and scored by punching the ball into the net.
He later said the goal came thanks to “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God”.
Four minutes later, he scored what has been described as the ‘goal of the century’ – collecting the ball in his own half before embarking on a bewitching, mazy run that left several players trailing before he rounded Shilton to score.
“You have to say that is magnificent. There is no doubt about that goal. That was just pure football genius,” said BBC commentator Barry Davies.
England pulled one back but Argentina went through, with Maradona saying it was “much more than winning a match, it was about knocking out the English”.
Maradona broke the world transfer record twice – leaving Boca Juniors in his home country for Spanish side Barcelona for £3m in 1982 and joining Italian club Napoli two years later for £5m.
There were more than 80,000 fans in the Stadio San Paolo when he arrived by helicopter. A new hero.
He played the best club football of his career in Italy, feted by supporters as he inspired the side to their first league titles in 1987 and 1990 and the Uefa Cup in 1989.
A party to celebrate the first triumph lasted five days with hundreds of thousands on the streets, but Maradona was suffocated by the attention and expectation.
“This is a great city but I can hardly breathe. I want to be free to walk around. I’m a lad like any other,” he said.
He became inextricably linked to the Camorra crime syndicate, dragged down by a cocaine addiction and embroiled in a paternity suit.
After losing 1-0 to Germany in the final of Italia 90, a positive dope test the following year triggered a 15-month ban.
He returned and arrested his slide, appearing to get his act together to play in the 1994 World Cup in the USA.
But he alarmed viewers with a maniacal full-face goal celebration into a camera and was withdrawn midway through the tournament after he was found to have taken the banned substance ephedrin. (BBC Sport)
Gateway win three Basketball Championships in a row
Gateway College Juniors comfortably beat Elizabeth Moir School 31-8 at the Semi Final and Colombo International School 19-10 to win the Under 13 Inter-International Schools’ Basketball Championship that was hosted by the Colombo International School. Earlier in the year, Gateway College secured the Under 17 and Under 19 Championships.
During the group stages, Gateway College Colombo had little resistance as they beat Wycherley International School 40-2, Lyceum International School Nugegoda 35-0, Gateway College Kandy 48-7 and the British School in Colombo 40-11.
Usman Shafraz was named as the Best Defensive Player and Ashain Thevarapperuma as the Most Valuable Player.
Gateway’s outstanding performances during the recent years include several National and International School tournaments which has set the stage for a few of it’s players to represent the country in Basketball.
Glenn Maxwell added to Australia Test squad after Travis Head joins injury list
Glenn Maxwell has been added to Australia’s Test squad ahead of the opening match against Sri Lanka in Galle after Travis Head joined a lengthy injury list with a hamstring strain which ruled him out of the final ODI.
It means the prospect of Maxwell playing his first Test since 2017, against Bangladesh in Chattogram, and his first first-class match since 2019 if he is included for the game next Wednesday. All seven of his Tests have come on the subcontinent with a top score of 104 against India in Ranchi.
Before the tour, national George Bailey kept the door open for Maxwell’s return. He has been in good touch during the ODIs with a match-winning unbeaten 80 in the opening game followed by 30 and 33.
“We know Glenn has had some red-ball success in these types of conditions and we’re looking forward to him getting back and playing a good block of cricket through the T20s and one-day cricket,” Bailey said. “If he shoots the lights out or anyone else does particularly well, there’s always going to be opportunities.”
Head sustained his injury late in the fourth match and has just six days to recover before the first Test in Galle. GPS data showed that Head had run 26km in the field across the third and fourth matches of the series. The strain is said to be on the minor side, but if he is not available for the opening game next Wednesday, it would require Australia to rejig their middle order.
Maxwell has been called up ahead of any of the Australia A batters who have been taking part in the four-day matches against Sri Lanka which includes Marcus Harris, Matt Renshaw and Nic Maddinson.
However, three spinners from the A squad – Jon Holland, Matthew Kuhnemann and Todd Murphy – will remain in Sri Lanka with the Test squad to assist with preparations and to further their development. Kuhnemann has already been part of the ODI squad following Ashton Agar’s side injury and if Australia opt for three spinners during the Tests there could be further chance for promotion. (Cricinfo)
Dickwella; brilliant with keeping, hopeless with batting
by Rex Clementine
One of the game’s modern day greats Ricky Ponting used to be a riot in his early days. Late night brawls at pubs left him with bloody nose and sanctions from Cricket Australia. It was Steve Waugh who took him to a side and told him to get his act together. Ponting went onto play a record 168 Test matches, won two World Cups as captain and today he is a successful cricket coach.
Similarly, with Virat Kohli there were lots of hope when he came onto the big stage having captained India to the ICC Under-19 World Cup title. But he was overweight and underperforming with India’s senior side. One Sachin Tendulkar mentored him and today Kohli is in a different league. It’s such a pity that none of our greats have done the same with Niroshan Dickwella.
When Sampath Perera, one of the country’s most successful school cricket coaches, took on a bigger responsibility we asked him which young player we should keep an eye for. He told this newspaper to watch out for Niroshan Dickwella. This was some talent that will take Sri Lankan cricket places, Perera suggested. But he also warned us. He feared that Dickwella will get into trouble due to his off the field antics.
After nearly a decade in Sri Lankan colours, Dickwella has rarely delivered. While wicketkeepers like Quinton de Kock and Rishab Pant have gone places winning games to their sides, Dickwella is struggling to hold onto his place. He has been just average. Anywhere else in the world if you had not scored a hundred after 50 Tests, you’d be kicked out. He’s been tolerated with the hope that the prodigal son will finally deliver.
There was proof of what Sampath Perera was trying to tell us during the fourth ODI at RPS. Dickwella pulled off a stunning stumping with David Warner on 99. Until that moment, the Aussies were on cruise mode to square the five match series. Dickwella turned the game and the series in Sri Lanka’s favour in a flash with the stumping of the year.
Sri Lanka have often backed batsmen who could do the job behind the stumps. In the process, they have turned a blind eye towards their best keeper who is Dickwella. Tuesday we saw why Dickwella should be backed as he is the team’s best keeper. Players of the caliber of Warner are going to give you just a half chance and you need to grab them like Dickwella did.
While Dickwella’s keeping is flawless, the problem is with his batting. There’s no consistency and worse, most of the time his ways of getting out are irritating.
Despite the excellent Warner stumping, the selectors have sent a strong message that unless he shows application with the bat, he is not going to be tolerated as he was dropped for the next game. They seem to want him to take more responsibility. At least this will bring the best out of him.
The other area that Dickwella has not made any improvement is his reviewing. True that the ultimate choice of reviews rests with the captain but the manner in which Dickwella urges the skipper leaves him with little choice. Dimuth Karunaratne, the Test captain, seem to be taking Dickwella’s inputs on reviews with a pinch of salt. White ball captain Dasun Shanaka seem to be still trusting his keeper but it’s only a matter of time before he too loses faith.
Reviews sum up Dickwella – impulsive, immature and even incorrigible. That’s seen in his overall cricket too. Fans will be hoping that the day comes where Dickwella is spoken of in the same breath as Pant and de Kock.
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