Diego Maradona is famous (or infamous) for winning the 1986 World Cup with Argentina. Maradona captained Argentina to World Cup glorying, but what you may not know is that he nearly missed the tournament. So, how did Diego Maradona nearly miss the tournament and what would have happened if he hadn’t played?
Diego Maradona and the Venezuela “madman”
Argentina began their World Cup qualifying campaign with a game in Venezuela. By the time the team touched down, Maradona was already the most famous footballer in the world. He was also a player hated by football fans around the world.
Argentina’s first World Cup qualifier was in San Cristobal, Venezuela. After landing, the crowd that gathered to see Maradona kicked off and chaotic scenes ensued. According to Maradona in an interview, a “madman” pushed through the crowd and when he neared Maradona, kicked him as hard as possible n the knee.
Maradona fought through the pain to play Venezuela the next day and struggled on through qualifying with the damage caused by the man from the riot in San Cristobal.
The legend of Maradona
Had Maradona not soldiered on and played in the qualifiers, and later the World Cup, his legend wouldn’t be as large as it is today. The Argentina team overcame poor form pre-World Cup and the Argentine government seeking to sack manager Carlos Bilardo to win the tournament.
It was Maradona at his very best, and worst, and his two goals against England in Mexico City were the pinnacle of his play in 1986. Most football fans, outside of Naples, will always link Maradona with the 1986 World Cup. It was a tournament that belonged to the Argentine and had he not played due to a knee problem, Maradona would most likely not be as well-remembered as he is.
There is no telling how badly damaged Maradona’s knee was when he was kicked by the “madman” in Venezuela. But in 2018, it was revealed the Maradona had no cartilage left in either knee.