In Argentina, a country where class and race is not far from the surface, someone who comes from the Buenos Aires slums is known as El Negrito. As writer Colm Toibin wrote in a profile of Diego Maradona in Esquire in 1991, that refers to someone with darker skin than the ruling class, specifically someone “from the shanty towns beyond the city, with Bolivian or Paraguayan blood, perhaps with Indian blood.” It’s a testament to Maradona’s talent and nous that this ‘little black,’ who is arguably the world’s greatest player of all time (of course Pele’s supporters would disagree), could still lead his country (incidentally, with another negrito, Carlos Tevez, leading his attack), this time as coach, to its 3rd World Cup in South Africa.
I am rooting for Argentina to take it all. (My other cup favorite is Brazil, also known as the “… the world’s largest African country.”)
Here’s a few reminders of the brilliance and comfort on the ball of the former player described in his prime by Eduardo Galeano as “… a short-legged bull, [who] carries the ball sewn to his foot and he’s got eyes all over his body.”
First, just for sheer enjoyment, watch Maradona warming up before a game for his Italian club, Napoli:
And there’s that second goal against England in the 1986 World Cup semi-final in Mexico City:
A different class. El Negrito.