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Uche Okechukwu tries to keep up with Diego Maradona

Down memory lane: When Maradona met Nigeria

25 December 2020

The legendary Diego Maradona died a month ago at the age of 60, but the man himself said people will be talking about him long after he was gone.

Maradona Confidential, a documentary made last year, and shown on the National Geographic channel, focused mainly on his time with Napoli, but also offered an insight into the 1994 World Cup Group D second round game between Argentina and Nigeria at Foxborough, Massachusetts, which turned out to be the great man’s last match for his country, as he was kicked out of the tournament for failing a routine dope test after the game.

Argentina won 2-1, thanks to two goals from Claudio Caniggia and the genius of Maradona. Teammate Abel Balbo took up the story in the film.

‘The match against Nigeria was very difficult, because Nigeria was an extraordinary team. Not only technically, physically they were real beasts. “These guys will kill us today. What do we do?”

‘What does Diego do before the game? The Nigerians were all there in the tunnel, the referee, and Argentina still to arrive. Diego went in first and started to hug all the Nigerians, one by one. “Oh brother, my friend”. They hugged him. They couldn’t believe it, he named each of the Nigerians by name. They couldn’t believe that Diego knew all their names. They surrounded him, they greeted him, they asked if after the game they could take pictures, it was surreal. So what happens? The game begins and they didn’t touch Diego. And we won the game thanks to that quick thinking, and to Diego’s genius quick free kick, and we won.’

Watch the highlights below.

Before the match, Nigeria’s own wizard, Jay Jay Okocha, was asked how they would mark Maradona and he replied that Maradona was meant to mark him! Nigeria failed to come close the Argentine maestro and paid for it. The anti-doping official succeeded where Nigerian defenders failed in catching up with Maradona for a routine test, which showed positive for five banned substances.

Maradona closely-marked by an anti-doping official after the win against Nigeria

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