Friday, July 2, 2010

Three Kings Of Football - Maradona, Pele And Best

Thanks, Wikipedia.

Diego Maradona

Diego Armando Maradona (born October 30, 1960 in Lanus, Buenos Aires) is an Argentinian former football player and the current manager of the Argentine national team.

He is widely regarded as one of the best football players of all time.

Over the course of his professional club career Maradona played for Argentinos Juniors, Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Napoli, Sevilla and Newell's Old Boys, setting world-record contract fees.

In his international career, playing for Argentina, he earned 91 caps and scored 34 goals.

He played in four FIFA World Cup tournaments, including the 1986 World Cup where he captained Argentina and led them to their victory over West Germany in the final, winning the Golden Ball award as the tournament's best player.

In that same tournament's quarter-final round he scored two goals in a 2–1 victory over England that entered football history, though for two very different reasons.

The first goal was an unpenalised handball known as the "Hand Of God", while the second goal was a spectacular 60-metre weave through six England players, commonly referred to as "The Goal Of The Century".

For various reasons, Maradona is considered one of the sport's most controversial and newsworthy figures.

He was suspended from football for 15 months in 1991 after failing a doping test for cocaine in Italy, and he was sent home from the 1994 World Cup in the USA for testing positive for ephedrine.

After retiring from playing on his 37th birthday in 1997, he gained weight and increasingly suffered ill health, not helped by ongoing cocaine abuse.

In 2005 a stomach stapling operation helped control his weight gain.

After overcoming his cocaine addiction, he became a popular TV host in Argentina.

His outspoken manners have sometimes put him at odds with journalists and sport executives.

Although he had little previous managerial experience, he became head coach of the Argentina national team in November 2008.

Maradona was born in Lanus, but raised in Villa Fiorito, a shantytown on the southern outskirts of Buenos Aires, to a poor family that had moved from Corrientes Province.

He was the first son after three daughters.

He has two younger brothers, Hugo and Eduardo, both of whom were also professional football players.

At 10, Maradona was spotted by a talent scout while playing in his neighbourhood club Estrella Roja.

He became a staple of Los Cebollitas (The Little Onions), the junior team of Buenos Aires' Argentinos Juniors.

As a 12-year-old, he amused spectators by showing his wizardry with the ball during the halftime intermissions of first division games.

On October 20, 1976, Maradona made his professional debut with Argentinos Juniors, 10 days before his 16th birthday.

He played there between 1976 and 1981, before a transfer to Boca Juniors.

Joining the squad midway through the 1981 season, Maradona played through 1982, and secured his first league winners' medal.

After the 1982 World Cup, Maradona was transferred to Barcelona in Spain.

In 1983, under coach Cesar Luis Menotti, Barcelona and Maradona won the Copa Del Rey (Spain's annual national cup competition), beating Real Madrid, and the Spanish Super Cup, beating Athletic De Bilbao.

However, Maradona had a difficult tenure in Barcelona.

First a bout with hepatitis, then a broken leg caused by an ill-timed tackle by Athletic's Andoni Goikoetxea jeopardised his career, but Maradona's physical strength and willpower made it possible for him to soon be back on the pitch.

At Barcelona, Maradona got into frequent disputes with the team's directors, especially club president Josep Lluis Nunez.

He was transferred to Napoli in Italy's Serie A.

At Napoli, Maradona reached the peak of his professional career.

He quickly became an adored star among the club's fans, elevated the team to the most successful era in its history.

Led by Maradona, Napoli won their only Serie A Italian Championships in 1986/87 and 1989/1990, placing second in the league twice, in 1987/88 and 1988/89.

Other honours during the Maradona era at Napoli included the Coppa Italia in 1987, (second place in the Coppa Italia in 1989), the UEFA Cup in 1989 and the Italian Supercup in 1990.

Maradona was the top scorer in Serie A in 1987/88.

During his time in Italy, Maradona's personal problems increased.

His cocaine use continued, and he received US $70,000 in fines from his club for missing games and practices, ostensibly because of 'stress'.

He faced a scandal there regarding an illegitimate son, and he was also the object of some suspicion over an alleged friendship with the Mafia.

After serving a 15-month ban for failing a drug test for cocaine, Maradona left Napoli in disgrace in 1992.

By the time he joined his next team, Sevilla (1992–93), he had not played professional football for two years.

In 1993 he played for Newell's Old Boys and in 1995 he returned to Boca Juniors for 2 years.

Maradona also appeared for Tottenham Hotspur in a friendly match against Internazionale, shortly before the 1986 World Cup.

The match was Osvaldo Ardiles' testimonial, who insisted his friend Maradona played.

Tottenham won 2–1.

He played alongside Glenn Hoddle, who gave up his number 10 shirt for the Argentinian.

Maradona would go on to dribble past Hoddle during his "goal of the century" against England in the World Cup that year.

Along with his time at Napoli, international football is where Maradona found fame.

Playing for the Albicelestes of the Argentina national football team, he participated in four consecutive FIFA World Cup tournaments, leading Argentina to victory in 1986 and to second place in 1990.

He made his full international debut at age 16, against Hungary on February 27, 1977.

At 18, he played the World Youth Championship for Argentina, and was the star of the tournament, shining in their 3–1 final win over the Soviet Union.

On June 2, 1979, Maradona scored his first senior international goal in a 3–1 win against Scotland at Hampden Park.

Maradona played his first World Cup tournament in 1982.

In the first round, Argentina, the defending champions, lost to Belgium.

Although the team convincingly beat Hungary and El Salvador to progress to the second round, they were defeated in the second round by Brazil and by eventual winners Italy.

Maradona played in all five matches without being substituted, scoring twice against Hungary, but was sent off with 5 minutes remaining in the game against Brazil for serious foul play.

Maradona captained the Argentine national team to victory in the 1986 FIFA World Cup, winning the final in Mexico against West Germany.

Throughout the 1986 World Cup Maradona asserted his dominance and was the most dynamic player of the tournament.

He played every minute of every Argentina's game, scored 5 goals and made 5 assists.

After scoring two goals in the 2–1 quarter-final win against England his legend was cemented.

This match was played with the background of the Falklands War between Argentina and the United Kingdom and emotions were still lingering in the air throughout the entire match.

Replays showed that the first goal was scored by striking the ball with his hand.

Maradona was coyly evasive, describing it as "a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God."

It became known as the "Hand Of God," or "La Mano De Dios."

Ultimately, on August 22, 2005 Maradona acknowledged on his television show that he had hit the ball with his hand purposely, and that he immediately knew the goal was illegitimate.

The goal stood, much to the wrath of the English players.

Maradona's second goal was later voted by FIFA as the greatest goal in the history of the World Cup.

This goal was voted Goal Of The Century in a 2002 online poll conducted by FIFA.

Maradona captained Argentina again in the 1990 FIFA World Cup.

An ankle injury affected his overall performance, and he was much less dominant than four years earlier.

At the 1994 FIFA World Cup Maradona played in only two games, scoring one goal against Greece, before being sent home after failing a drug test for ephedrine doping.

Maradona had a compact physique and could withstand physical pressure well. His strong legs and low centre of gravity gave him an advantage in short sprints.

His physical strengths were illustrated by his two goals against Belgium in the 1986 World Cup.

Maradona was a strategist and a team player, as well as highly technical with the ball.

One of Maradona's trademark moves was dribbling full-speed on the left wing, and on reaching the opponent's goal line, delivering accurate passes to his team mates.

Maradona was dominantly left-footed, often using his left foot even when the ball was positioned more suitably for a right-footed connection.

In 2000, Maradona published his autobiography Yo Soy El Diego (I Am The Diego), which became an instant best seller in his home country.

Two years later, Maradona donated the Cuban royalties of his book to "the Cuban people and President Fidel Castro."

FIFA conducted a fan poll on the Internet in 2000, to elect the Player Of The Century.

Maradona finished top of the poll with 53.6pc of the vote.

Subsequently, contrary to the original announcement of how the award would be decided, FIFA appointed a committee of football experts that voted to award Pele the title.

Maradona protested at the change in procedure, and declared he would not attend the ceremony if Pele replaced him.

Eventually, two awards were made, to each of them.

Maradona is of Spanish, Croatian and Native American (Guarani) descent and his maternal great-grandfather Mateo Kariolic was born in Korcula, Dalmatia, Croatia.

On November 7, 1989, he married his longtime fiancee Claudia Villafane in Buenos Aires. They have two daughters, Dalma Nerea (born April 2, 1987) and Giannina Dinorah (born May 16, 1989).

Giannina is now engaged to Atletico Madrid striker Sergio Aguero.

Maradona and his wife were divorced in 2004.

Maradona is a fan of former Cuban President Fidel Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

He once slammed the US government of President George W. Bush saying: "I hate everything that comes from the United States President George W. Bush. I hate it with all my strength."


Pele

Edison Arantes Do Nascimento (born October 23, 1940), best known by his nickname Pele is a retired Brazilian football player. He is widely regarded by polls amongst football experts, former players and fans as the greatest footballer of all time.

In his native Brazil, Pele is hailed as a national hero.

He is known for his accomplishments and contributions to football.

He is also acknowledged for his vocal support of policies to improve the social conditions of the poor (when he scored his 1,000th goal he dedicated it to the poor children of Brazil).

During his career, he became known as The King Of Football (O Rei Do Futebol) or simply The King (O Rei).

Spotted by football star Waldemar De Brito, Pele began playing for Santos at 15 and his national team at 16, and won his first World Cup at 17.

Despite numerous offers from European clubs, the economic conditions and Brazilian football regulations at that time benefited Santos, and enabled them to keep Pele for almost two decades until 1974.

Pele played as an inside forward, striker and what later became known as the playmaker position.

Pele's techniques and natural athleticism have been universally praised and during his playing years he was renowned for his excellent dribbling and passing, powerful shots, exceptional heading ability, and prolific goal-scoring.

He is the all-time leading scorer of the Brazil national football team and is the only footballer to be a part of three World Cup-winning squads.

In 1962 he was on the Brazilian squad at the start of the World Cup but because of an injury suffered in the second match, he was unable to play the remainder of the tournament.

In November 2007 FIFA announced that he would be awarded the 1962 medal retroactively, making him the only player in the world to have three World Cup winning medals.

Since his retirement in 1977, Pele has been a worldwide ambassador for football and has undertaken various acting roles and commercial ventures.

Pele was born in Tres Cora├žoes, Brazil, the son of a Fluminense footballer Dondinho (born Joao Ramos Do Nascimento) and Maria Celeste Arantes.

He was named after the American inventor Thomas Edison.

He was originally nicknamed Dico by his family. He did not receive the nickname Pele until his school days.

It means Miracle in Hebrew.

Pele grew up in poverty in Bauru, Sao Paulo. He earned extra money by working in tea shops.

At 15, he joined the Santos FC junior team. He played for one season before joining the senior team.

During his time at Santos, Pele played alongside many gifted players, including Zito, Pepe and Coutinho.

Pele made his debut for Santos on September 7, 1956, scoring one goal in a 7–1 friendly victory over Corinthians.

When the 1957 season started, Pele was given a starting place in the first team and, at 16, became the top scorer in the league.

On November 19, 1969, Pele scored his 1000th goal in all competitions. The goal, called popularly O Milesimo (The Thousandth), occurred in a match against Vasco Da Gama, at the Maracana Stadium.

Pele states that his most beautiful goal was scored at Rua Javari Stadium against Sao Paulo rival Juventus on August 2, 1959.

In 1967, the two factions involved in the Nigerian Civil War agreed to a 48-hour ceasefire so they could watch Pele play an exhibition game in Lagos.

After the 1972 season (his 17th with Santos), Pele retired from Brazilian club football.

Two years later, he signed with the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League (NASL) for the 1975 season.

Though well past his prime, Pele is credited with significantly increasing public awareness and interest in soccer in the United States.

He led the Cosmos to the 1977 NASL championship, in his third and final season with the club.

On October 1, 1977, Pele closed his legendary career in an exhibition match between the Cosmos and Santos. The Cosmos won 2–1.

Pele's first international match was a 2–1 defeat against Argentina on July 7, 1957. In that match, he scored his first goal for Brazil aged 16 years and 9 months to become the youngest player to score in international football.

His first match in the World Cup was against the Soviet Union (USSR) in the first round of the 1958 FIFA World Cup.

He was the youngest player of that tournament, and at the time the youngest ever to play in the World Cup.

He scored his first World Cup goal against Wales in the quarter finals, the only goal of the match, to help Brazil advance to semi-finals, while becoming the youngest ever World Cup goal scorer at 17 years and 239 days.

On June 19, 1958 Pele became the youngest player to play in a World Cup final match at 17 years and 249 days. He scored two goals in the final as Brazil beat Sweden 5–2.

In the first match of the 1962 World Cup, against Mexico, Pele assisted on the first goal and then scored the second one to go up 2–0 after a run past four defenders.

He injured himself while attempting a long-range shot against Czechoslovakia.

The 1966 World Cup was marked for its brutal fouling on Pele by the Bulgarian and Portuguese defenders.

Brazil was eliminated in the first round, playing only three matches.

Pele scored the first goal from a free kick against Bulgaria, but due to his injury, a result of persistent fouling by the Bulgarians, he was left out for the second game against Hungary.

When Pele was called to the national team in early 1969, he first refused, but then accepted and played in six World Cup qualifying matches, scoring six goals. The 1970 World Cup in Mexico was to be Pele's last.

Pele's last international match was on July 18, 1971 against Yugoslavia in Rio De Janeiro.

With Pele on the field, the Brazilian team's record was 67 wins, 14 draws and 11 losses, and went on to win three World Cups.

Brazil never lost a match while fielding Pele.

Pele also played in the South American Championship. In the 1959 competition he was top scorer with eight goals, as Brazil came second in the tournament.

On February 21, 1966, Pele married Rosemeri Dos Reis Cholby.

He has two daughters Kelly Cristina (January 13, 1967) and Jennifer (1978) as well as a son Edson (August 27, 1970).

The couple divorced in 1978.

Since April 1994 Pele has been married to psychologist and gospel singer Assiria Lemos Seixas, who gave birth on September 28, 1996 to twins Joshua and Celeste.

In 1992, Pele was appointed a United Nations ambassador for ecology and the environment.

He was awarded Brazil's Gold Medal for outstanding services to the sport in 1995.

He also received an honorary British knighthood in 1997 and was appointed a Unesco Goodwill Ambassador.

Pele has published several autobiographies, starred in documentary and semi-documentary films and composed various musical pieces, including the entire soundtrack for the film Pele in 1977.

He appeared alongside other footballers of the 1960s and 1970s, Michael Caine and Sylvester Stallone, in the 1981 film Escape To Victory.

Pele signed a major autobiographical book deal in 2006 with UK luxury publishers Gloria.

In the same period, Pele received a lifetime achievement award from the BBC and helped inaugurate the 2006 FIFA World Cup finals, alongside supermodel Claudia Schiffer.

Pele has also helped to promote viagra and raise the awareness of impotency.


George Best

George Best (May 22, 1946 – November 25, 2005) was a Northern Irish professional football player, best known for his years with Manchester United.

He was a winger whose game combined pace, acceleration, balance, two-footedness, goal-scoring and the ability to beat defenders.

In 1968, he won the European Cup with Manchester United, and was named the European Footballer Of The Year.

When fit, he was an automatic choice for the Northern Ireland team, but he was unable to lead them to the World Cup qualification, despite being capped 37 times and scoring nine goals.

Pele named him as one of the 125 best living footballers in his 2004 FIFA 100 list and Best was named 19th at the UEFA Golden Jubilee Poll.

In his native Northern Ireland, the admiration for him is summed up by the local saying: "Maradona good, Pele better, George Best."

He was one of the first celebrity footballers, but his extravagant lifestyle led to problems with alcoholism which curtailed his playing career and eventually led to his death at 59.

His cause of death was multiple organ failure after a liver transplant.

In 2007, GQ named him as one of the 50 most stylish men of the past 50 years.

The Cregagh Estate honoured George Best by unveiling a mural on what would have been his 60th birthday.

George Best was the first child of Dick Best (1920–2008) and Anne Withers (1923–1978), and grew up in Cregagh, Belfast.

Best had four sisters and a brother.

In 1957, at 11, the academically gifted Best passed the 11 plus and went to Grosvenor High School, but he soon played truant as the school specialised in rugby.

Best then moved to Lisnasharragh Secondary School, reuniting him with friends from primary school and allowing him to focus on football.

At 15, Best was discovered in Belfast by Manchester United scout Bob Bishop.

Best made his Manchester United debut, aged 17, on September 14, 1963 against West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford and this resulted in a 1–0 victory.

Best hit the headlines at 20 when he scored two goals in a European Cup quarter-final match against Benfica in 1966, and his long hair prompted the Portuguese press to dub him "O Quinto Beatle (The Fifth Beatle)".

Best's talent and showmanship made him a crowd and media favourite.

Called "The Fifth Beatle" for his long hair, good looks and extravagant celebrity lifestyle, he even appeared on Top Of The Pops in 1965.

Other nicknames included the "Belfast Boy".

Best opened two nightclubs in Manchester, in the late 1960s - Oscar's and Slack Alice's (which later became 42nd Street Nightclub).

He also owned fashion boutiques, in partnership with Mike Summerbee of Manchester City.

However, he developed problems with gambling, womanising and alcoholism.

In 1974, aged 27, Best quit United for good.

His last competitive game for the club was on January 1, 1974 against Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road.

In total Best made 470 appearances for Manchester United in all competitions from 1963 to 1974, and scored 179 goals.

Best had a brief spell at Cork Celtic in December 1975. He played only three league games, against Drogheda United, Bohemian and Shelbourne, but despite attracting big crowds he failed to score or impress.

He then had a brief resurgence in form with Fulham in 1976–77.

Best played for three clubs in the United States: Los Angeles Aztecs, Fort Lauderdale Strikers and later San Jose Earthquakes.

He also played for Scottish club Hibernain, Bournemouth and the Brisbane Lions.

He was capped 37 times for Northern Ireland, scoring nine goals. Of his nine international goals four were scored against Cyprus and one each against Albania, England, Scotland, Switzerland and Turkey.

On May 15, 1971, Best scored possibly the most famous "goal" of his career at Windsor Park in Belfast against England.

Best continued to be selected for Northern Ireland throughout the 1970s, despite his fluctuating form and off pitch problems.

In 1998, Best became a football pundit on the Sky Sports live show Soccer Saturday. His last appearance on the show was in 2004.

In November 2004, 58-year-old Best agreed to join Premier League club Portsmouth as a youth coach, citing his desire to get involved in football again.

Best was married twice, first to Angela MacDonald-Janes (1978–1986). They had a son, Calum, who was born in 1981.

He married Alex Pursey in 1995 in Kensington and Chelsea, London. They divorced in 2004.

In 2004, his second wife Alex appeared as a contestant on the reality television programme I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here! and alleged that Best was violent towards her during their marriage.

This issue was, in fact, covered in Best's authorised 1998 biography Bestie in which Alex claimed that Best punched her in the face on more than one occasion, something which Best never denied.

Best's last words were "Don't die like me". It was a way of warning others not to risk suffering a similar fate as a result of alcoholism.

Belfast City Airport was renamed George Best Airport as a tribute to Best.

The official new name and signage was unveiled to a gathering of the Best family and friends at the airport on May 22, 2006 which would have been his 60th birthday.

In June 2006, Sarah Faberge, great-grand daughter of Russian Imperial Jeweller Carl Faberge was commissioned to create the George Best Egg, in tribute to Best.

The first egg from the collection is now on permanent public display at the George Best Airport.

For the first anniversary of his death, Ulster Bank issued one million commemorative five pound notes. The notes sold out in five days.

Best has written or co-written 6 autobiographies.

In 1984 Best made a fitness album with Mary Stavin called Shape Up And Dance.

A warts-and-all biopic simply entitled Best was released in 2000.

Best has been mentioned in the song In The Name Of The Father written by Bono, Gavin Friday and Maurice Seezer and performed by Bono.