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Argentina fans who doubted Diego Maradona: 'Please forgive us!'

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Maradona's mixed past

Maradona has had a mixed record on and off the pitch. His was the so-called “hand-of-god” in the 1986 World Cup quarterfinals when, as a player, he tapped the ball with his hand on a drive through the English defense to score Argentina’s first goal of the game. Maradona scored again three minutes later in an equally fantastic play and the Argentines advanced with a 2-1 victory. They went on to win the 1986 title, the second and last time the team won the Cup.

But he has also been dogged by personal and professional problems, including being ejected from the 1994 World Cup for doping. Yet Maradona now seems to have shed his bad-boy image, cultivating instead a persona of the experienced, fatherly coach.

Maradona wears a tracksuit at practices and kicks the ball around with his players. When subs come off the field, Maradona gives them long hugs and kisses, as if he’s the 12th man on the field. He sports a gray suit and silver tie – and clutches a rosary in his "hand of god" – at the games (though he immediately changes out of his professional attire for post-game press conferences).

Futbol intuition

Many say it is Diego’s almost magical intuition about the game that has propelled the team forward.

Miguel Gallardo, a doorman in the upscale Recoletta neighborhood, says that the pre-Cup troubles were nothing more than Maradona’s grand strategy not to reveal the team’s playing style. “He had it in his head all along," he argues. "A lot of people are going to have to ask for forgiveness.”

“I think in Maradona’s case, it’s a spiritual sort of mystical thing that has made it possible for him to get to the point where he is now,” says Schvarzstein. “You never know what is important in these battles — the passion for the game, to make the people who are with you believe that they can do it.”

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