There are few cultural icons as large as Diego Maradona. The Argentinian footballer transcended the world of sport and became a public treasure, taking a lacklustre national team to the loftiest heights. But sadly on Wednesday, after a series of health complications, Argentina’s greatest ever sporting export passed away, leaving behind an unparalleled legacy.
It’s easy to marginalise excellence as the years pass, but anyone who saw the little master at work remembers what peak Maradona looked like. Undersized, he led Argentina to a 1986 World Cup victory over West Germany, before taking Napoli to two Serie A titles in Italy. A charismatic figure, Maradona was beloved in his home country on a level never seen before.
In Argentina, the government has declared three days of mourning. “You took us to the highest point of the world, and made us immensely happy,” President Alberto Fernandez said. “You were the greatest of all. Thank you for having been with us, Diego. We will miss you all our lives.”
But while you might think three days of mourning is a little excessive, the legend of Maradona lives on. In fact, the Argentinian footballer is so famous in his own country, there is even a religion based on his life.
Created by fans of the late footballer, the Iglesia Maradoniana (Church of Maradona) is the ultimate tribute to the football wizard. It was founded on October 30, 1998 (Maradona’s 38th birthday) in the city of Rosario by fans Héctor Campomar, Alejandro Verón and Hernán Amez. Apparently, supporters of the Maradonian Church don’t even follow the western calendar, instead, they simply count the years since Maradona’s birth in 1960.
“I have a rational religion, and that’s Catholic Church, and I have a religion passed on my heart, passion, and that’s Diego Maradona,” Alejandro Verón said.
As all good religions do, The Church of Maradona has a code of ethics to live by. Basing their ideology on the larger than life figure, the founders of the Iglesia Maradoniana subscribe to their own version of the ‘ten commandments’.
The 10 Commandments of the Church of Maradona
- The ball is never soiled.
- Love football above all else.
- Declare unconditional love for Diego and the beauty of football.
- Defend the Argentina shirt.
- Spread the news of Diego’s miracles throughout the universe.
- Honour the temples where he played and his sacred shirts.
- Don’t proclaim Diego as a member of any single team.
- Preach and spread the principles of the Church of Maradona.
- Make Diego your middle name and name your first son Diego.
- Don’t live estranged from reality and don’t be useless.
He may have battled his demons off the field, but on the pitch, there were none taller than Diego Maradona. May he be bicycle kicking his way through heaven forevermore.