Just like all the most special meetings of my life, the one with Maradona also brings something magical and divine with it. I didn’t experience them as an insider, a journalist or a friend of people in some way close to them, but as a completely ordinary person. For some combinations that then, over time, have definitively convinced me of the existence of a magnetic force regulating the lives and destinies of some people. Sometimes establishing contacts.
That’s the way it was with Syd Barrett, when after days of searching for him around Cambridge and surroundings, on my way back to London, I discovered that he lived just opposite the house I had rented, and I ran to ring his door just to shake his paint-spattered hand before rushing to catch the bus. With Keith Flint, when in the middle of a Prodigy concert, he stopped in front of me, staring into my eyes for a few moments, before reaching out a ringed hand to shake mine. Or with Jimi Hendrix, when during a visit to the small museum of a Hard Rock Cafe, in London, I started to bleed profusely from the nose, after I finally stopped hold his “Flying Angel” guitar in my hands.
Combinations, signs, or suggestions, they are the ones that have always added an indispensable kind of magic to our human paths.
The same ones that one day as a teenager allowed me to join the strongest team of a football tournament. Being one of the youngest members of that team, and certainly the most timid, I played just a few minutes of those matches before the final — with a second-choice goalkeeper’s shirt, since the others were over. During the final, despite my prayers to the coach, I didn’t set foot in the field.
It was one of the most watched matches ever in the history of the neighborhood, because someone had arranged for Diego Armando Maradona to attend it. And we weren’t in just any city. I lived the first twenty years of my life in Naples, and in Naples, perhaps more than anywhere else, that man who was now standing in the dim light of a street lamp, on the edge of a suburban field, just a few steps from my bench, wasn’t just a man. All around, from the balconies of the buildings, and piled up to the fragile fence of the field where the Lions and the Panthers competed for the champion title, an irrepressible crowd coming from all over the city screamed at that exceptional spectator.
At my umpteenth request to play at least two or three minutes in front of him, someone says to me “look, there is Maradona, go and say hello!”. Of course, I knew he was there, but I was paralyzed, I could only look at him. Eventually, realizing that I would never play in that match, I plucked up my courage and joined him. Once beside him, in the deafening roar of a stadium, I raised my head like a dog to the only possible owner, and his “hand of god” caressed my hair. That evening, my team won the tournament, and in one of the photos from the event, my gaze is that of a child whose favorite football card has materialized into reality. As I remember, his was the first hand through which I had to deal with something divine.