Buenos Aires | Marcela Mora y Araujo‘s Sunday profile of Diego Maradona introduces the reader to several key concepts in Argentine football culture. The first is picardia criolla, a “Creole cheekiness” with which Argentines spiced the game following its introduction by English sailors and railway workers. “The game is particularly suited to the poor,” she writes, no doubt intending Maradona as exemplar.
Children whose parents who cannot afford toys can be easily entertained with a single ball, which need not be an actual ball at all: scrunched-up rags will do. The main objective for each child is to gain possession and then play. This is the moment of individual expression par excellence, the child at play.
The second principle is gambeta, the melding of technical ability with deception. And Maradona possesses a third desirable quality, arenga, the ability to encourage others. With these culturally lauded traits, no wonder that Maradona is described as the nation’s addiction. “He is our drug,” says a sports psychologist. “It is not him who is ill, it is us.”