Diego Maradona, the Argentine soccer great who was among the best players ever passed away on Wednesday. Famed for the ‘Hand of God’ goal, Maradona captivated fans over a two-decade career with a bewitching style of play that was all his own.
West Bengal in general, and Kolkata in particular, is known to be the hotbed of Indian football, with the country’s most die-hard football fans representing their city with great pride and fervor. Apart from the fanatical following enjoyed by arch-rivals East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, the city of Kolkata lives and breathes football, and teams across the world are supported fervently.
Maradona finally kept his date with the football-frenzied city of Kolkata and arrived in India on December 11, 2017. Maradona graced the much-hyped ‘Diego versus Dada’ exhibition match, but he skipped the charity football match — Match for Unity — due to an injury to his right hand. However, the legendary footballer spent time with school children, who were all seen donning the famous No. 10 jerseys. Maradona’s arrival in India was organized by Satadru Dutta Initiative, a sports event organising company. The Bridge spoke exclusively to sports entrepreneur Satadru Dutta, who shares his experience of spending his time with the legend himself.
“In 2017, I first went to Maradona’s home in Buenos Aires. In our first meeting, I didn’t get any such perception about Maradona that he was quite moody. The first impression I had was of the gentleman Maradona. I even touched his right foot as a mark of respect, he chuckled and asked me to touch his left foot instead. I had gone with the proposal for him to visit Kolkata in 2017 and told him that I arranged Pele’s visit to the city earlier in 2015. Maradona being Maradona, said that you might have brought Pele to Kolkata, but let’s see if you can convince the greatest footballer of all time (obviously, referring to himself). Without hesitating, I conveyed, that it’s true and only with your presence our dreams will get fulfilled.”
“He shared the email id of his manager and asked me to contact him a few days later. As per his command, I followed up with an email a few days later. I remember of sending the email to his manager on April 28th. I called up his manager again and he just told him and Diego will answer according to his own whims. I could understand how big was the stature of Diego was. My wife was pregnant during this time, and on May 1st my son was born at 7.15 PM in the evening. I was in Kolkata and that same evening I got an email from Diego at 8.30 PM, who confirmed he was going to come to Kolkata. Without giving a second thought, I named my son Diego. The signed contract arrived. Initially, it was planned, he would visit in October but later he informed me that he would be coming in December. In between, I met him in Dubai on his birthday, while he was working as a coach of the Fujairah team in UAE. He told me that Kolkata has to wait for the King to arrive. He finally arrived on the 10th of December. Nobody knows, what would Maradona do, he was so unpredictable. He was in a very good mood after setting his feet in Kolkata, on the first day, he attained the charity match in Barasat Kolkata alongside Sourav Ganguly. However, nobody knew what happened on the second day, his mood was spoilt and he refused to attend the event. However, after innumerable requests, he joined the event. It was a matter of fortune to see him closely and experience his eccentric personality. I would always be his fan and would cherish these days I could spend with him.”