Top 100 World Cup Moments (From the Aussie P.O.V.): 43-Oh Diego…You’ve Done It Again (1994)

Diego Maradona

After qualifying for USA ’94 it had seemed that Diego Maradona had banished many of the demons that had him scurrying like a rat away from Europe and back to South America around 1992 following a positive drug test. After washing up at Newell’s Old Boys in the Argentine league and being begged to return to the national set up he had helped Argentina squeeze past our rabble to qualify and seemingly he got his groove back. Maradona played only seven matches for N.O.B following the qualifiers against Australia and was still tabloid fodder for those who loved sticking the boot in.

In February he shot at journalists camped outside his house in Buenos Aires with an air rifle, he was also still to face drugs charges in Italy and failed to show up but it was still expected that he would be going to the US for the tournament. Argentine coach Alfio Basile selected Maradona for the cup despite his limited preparation and tendency to go journo-hunting with a gun with the number 10 joining a heap of talented bastards including Gabriel Batistuta, Fernando Redondo, Diego Simeone (who is now the coach of the excellent Atletico Madrid side) and another convicted drug user Claudio Canniggia.

Considering he had gained a heap of weight during his Italian drug ordeal and suspension Maradona look terrific when the tournament started, in fact he looked a little more than terrific. Maradona looked as like he had spent much of his time in the wilderness with Bear Grylls eating slugs, swimming in rivers with leeches and having a good dose of dysentery that had him looking slimmer than even his peak period of the mid-80s. Still using drugs Diego? Never, he’s a legend and clean as a whistle!

The Argentinians’ first game was against Greece who were in their first ever World Cup and were naive to say the least. This naivety (or crapness perhaps) was exposed by the red hot Argentinians who completely blitzed the poor bastards 4-0. Batigol scored two goals in the first half before on the hour mark Maradona took advantage of some fantastic lead up work and scored a 30 yard screamer but it’s the celebration that is remembered more than the actual goal. After scoring the cracker Maradona bolted towards a camera on the sideline yelling with pure emotion and with a look on his face of someone who was not on this planet or even in this solar system.

The footage of Maradona running up right to the camera with that look is something that will always be remembered from his World Cup. The game finished 4-0 with Batigol finishing with a hat-trick thanks to a penalty near full time.  Argentina were back it seemed. Gone was the lethargic side from the qualifying campaign that saw them have a record loss at home to Colombia and sneak past Eddie Thompson’s Socceroos, they were now a high scoring tournament hot shot team of dynamos! In the next match they would face a quite decent side in Nigeria. Former Perth Glory star (ahem…) Samson Siasia opened the scoring for the Nigerians but they were soon brought back to earth by Maradona’s trickery and a quick fire double from Cannigia made sure it was a 2-1 win.

Argentina were cruising with a ticket in to the second round already and the world at their feet, what could possibly go wrong? Well, one thing for example is that there’s these things called random drug tests. A few people on drugs get done by them at Olympics and the like and they are also carried out at World Cups. Naturally they were going to target a guy that was at the time lying about being a reformed cocaine addict and Maradona was tested following the Nigeria game. It was no surprise when FIFA announced that Maradona had failed the drug test but surprisingly it wasn’t for coke as he probably had a masking agent for that.

FIFA announced that Maradona had in fact tested positive for ephedrine and was banned from the tournament, in fact he had tested for five different types of ephedrine and was definitely out of the tournament. Argentina would go on to go from world beaters to a  joke with a loss in the final first round game to Bulgaria 2-0 that was followed then with a loss to Romania in the second round 3-2. As more facts came out the blame was pointed towards a former member of Maradona’s entourage who was a doctor and had given him a nasal spray which contained the drug, the doctor had apparently been sacked for this.

Maradona also claimed that the ephedrine was in an energy drink called ‘Rip Fuel’ that had different ingredients in the US version but that was also rejected, Maradona’s goose was cooked and he was banned for 15 months. One last throw of the dice from Maradona was the claim he made that he was given the green light to take ephedrine by FIFA so he could lose weight and play at the tournament. He claimed that the tournament would ‘lose prestige’ if he wasn’t there, this allegation was never proven. He would also claim that because of the Brazilian head of FIFA it was a conspiracy to get Brazil to win seeing as Argentina was the best team at the tournament, his allegations about ‘The Brazilian Mafia’ and FIFA have always been something that he’d referred to in his career at times.

Two-tone hair, two-tone ball ... Diego Maradona

During the ban Maradona would try his hand at coaching (he failed) and then was offered a lifeline by his beloved Boca Juniors where he was suspended again for drugs (cocaine again) whilst playing in a disastrous tour by Boca of South Korea to help promote Korea’s bid for the 2002 World Cup. Looking ‘fit’ again he turned out for Boca with his now infamous skunk haircut and played until 1997 when he finally announced his retirement and slipped in to another 7 years of coke addiction. Many thought that USA ’94 would be a bridge too far for Diego and without drugs it probably was but he gave it a crack and we all love someone who tries his best even if he did look possessed when he scored that memorable goal against Greece. Oh Diego, please never change.

About Dennis Gedling

RTR FM Presenter. Glory Guerrillas Producer and Co-Host. Contributer to Football Nation Radio and Football West. Worships at the feet of the mighty Cats, Socceroos, Matildas, West Perth, Glory and Glasgow's Green and White most of the time.

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