Shock-waves of sadness reverberated throughout the world when news of Diego Maradona’s death broke last Wednesday.
t’s saying a lot about the plucky Argentine that his passing was able to relegate most of the world’s news on that day to the far end of people’s minds, as they reflected on the career of arguably one of the greatest players ever to grace the beautiful game. For Tralee man Declan Breen, Maradona’s death brought back memories of one of those fleeting encounters in life that take a minute at most, but last forever.
Declan was working in Dubai in 2012 when Maradona was coaching Al-Wasel F.C., who play in the Arabian Gulf League. Declan would often attend training sessions to watch the maestro Maradona putting the players through their paces.
“One evening I stood at the wire with Eva in my arms, he saw us and came over. He gave Eva a kiss and held her for the photo,” said Declan.
“His translator was with him and I told Maradona that my favourite memory was the first goal he scored against England at the 1986 World Cup. I told him it was ‘no handball’. He just started laughing when he heard it. I then asked if I could kiss the hand of god. I got his autograph. It was an unreal experience, Maradona was the greatest I ever saw,” Declan said.
There is also a funny story surrounding the picture taken that evening (above). Half of Declan’s head is missing from the picture, but there’s a plausible reason why.
“The guy who took the photo was shaking. He was totally overawed to be in Maradona’s company that he didn’t take the picture right,” Declan laughs. Shortly after, Declan and his family went on a cruise holiday. Some of the ship’s staff were from Naples (Maradona played for the local Serie A team, Napoli).
“It was incredible to see their reaction,” said Declan. “My daughter may as well have been handled by god the way they reacted to the photo. The Napalese adore him. Even now, Eva is aware of how important that picture is. She even keeps a poster of him on her wall,” said Declan.