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Mourning a football legend

Martín Demichelis on Diego Maradona: 'A true idol'

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The football world is mourning Diego Maradona, who died on Wednesday at the age of 60. The Argentine is widely regarded as one of the best footballers of all time. Someone who worked with the 1986 World Cup winner for two years is Bayern legend Martín Demichelis, who played under Maradona for the Argentine national team between 2008 and 2010. The pair both took part in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Demichelis, now the under-19 coach at FCB, reflects on his former boss:

“It’s hard for me to find the words. Since I found out the news on Wednesday, I’ve been full of grief. Diego was, for me and for millions of Argentines, a true idol. An idol at a time when there were no phones, modern technology or social media, when Argentina had just lost a war and a country was trying to get back on its feet. He changed and shaped a whole country with a simple ball.”

First encounter

‘Micho’, as he’s often called, still clearly remembers his first meeting with the football great. “As chance would have it, I became a professional footballer and got to meet him. I remember many things from our first encounter. I was in a restaurant, he was sitting at another table. Literally everyone was looking at him. At first I thought it must be difficult to eat like that. Suddenly Diego came over to my table to say hello. He said: ‘Micho, this is the last time that we’re in the same place and you don’t greet me.’ That was in 2005, when I was playing for Bayern.”

“When he was named Argentina coach in 2008, he flew to Barcelona first of all to speak to Lionel Messi, and then took the time to come to Munich to get to know me better. Argentina then played a friendly against Germany in Munich [ed. on 3 March 2010]. I suffered severe facial injuries in that match and had to undergo surgery that evening. The next day, without saying anything, Diego came to the hospital to talk to me. That was Diego, an incomparable leader. I’ve never seen anyone capture the imagination of the world like he did.”

Maradona and FC Bayern

Demichelis can remember numerous conversations about FC Bayern. Maradona respected the Bavarians a lot and talked, for example, about legends such as Uli Hoeneß, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Lothar Matthäus and Sepp Maier. “I know that in his big heart, there was a small place for Bayern. There’s a quote from an Argentine writer, which sums it up perfectly: It doesn’t matter what Diego did with his life, it’s what he did with mine that’s important.”

Martín Demichelis tussles with Germany’s Jérôme Boateng at the 2010 World Cup as Diego Maradona watches on.

Demichelis concluded: “My soul is hurting today and sadness penetrates me. A part of football has died, a part of our passion. May he rest in peace. Although Diego is immortal, we’ll miss him forever. For Argentines, the hug is very representative, but when Diego hugged someone, it felt genuine. So, a genuine hug from me and above all: THANK YOU.”