By Oyinlola Awonuga (The New Diplomat’s Entertainment, Fashion and Sports Desk)
Argentine football great, Diego Maradona, and French football legend, Michel Platini, once played against each other in a football match organized to promote global fight against drugs and corruption in 1986.
The move by the two football icons was hailed around the world at the time. But several years after the match, the two soccer greats were found culpable of the same nefarious act they campaigned against, attempting to rally the world to a change.
In a photograph that lately surfaced online, Platini posed alongside Argentine Maradona, with the Brazilian Pelé standing in their middle.
As seen in the widely circulated picture online, during the match in 1986, Maradona wears his “no drugs” jersey, while Platini’s jersey has an inscription that says “no to corruption” on it.
Pele was in-between them as a neutral party — an umpire of some sorts.
Ironically, eight years after the match, Maradona was found culpable and banned from football in August 1994 for 15 months for drug abuse, while Platini was banned from football for life in December 2015 on corruption charges. He would later appeal to get the ban reduced to six years.
In terms of record breaking achievements, while playing the round leeather game, Maradona was the first player in football history to set the world record transfer fee twice. First when he transferred to Barcelona for a then world record £5 million, and second, when he moved to Napoli for another record fee £6.9 million.
He played for Argentinos Juniors, Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Napoli, Sevilla and Newell’s Old Boys during his club career, and he’s most famous for his time at Napoli and Barcelona where he won numerous accolades.
Maradona, 59, during his international career with Argentina earned 91 caps and scored 34 goals. He also played in four FIFA World Cups, including the 1986 World Cup in Mexico where he captained Argentina and led them to victory against West Germany in the final, winning the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player.
After serving a 15-month ban for failing a drug test for cocaine, Maradona left Napoli in disgrace in 1992. Despite interest from Real Madrid and Marseille, he signed for Sevilla, where he stayed for one year. In 1993, he played for Newell’s Old Boys and in 1995 returned to Boca Juniors for a two-year stint.
He became coach of Argentina in November 2008. He was in charge of the team at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa before leaving at the end of the tournament. He coached Dubai -based club Al Wasl in the UAE Pro-League for the 2011–12 season. In 2017, Maradona became the coach of Fujairah before leaving at the end of the season. In May 2018, Maradona was announced as the new chairman of Belarusian club Dynamo Brest.
For Platini, his plan to return back to football has been stalling, following a ban adte the violation of FIFA ethics bordering on allegations of corruption.
In 2015, the world’s football governing body, FIFA banned Platini, who at the time was its vice-president, over a payment of two million Swiss francs (about $2 million), which he had received from then-FIFA President Sepp Blatter in 2011, also butted out unceremoniously over alleged fraud.
Platini, a former UEFA President appealed the ban in 2015, but lost at the European Court of Human Rights. The court found that the FIFA-imposed ban was neither “excessive nor arbitrary.”
In February 21, 2020, Platini revealed in an interview with newsmen that he is considering a return to football as the former UEFA president bids to restore his tarnished reputation following his ban from the game.
Platini who was initially banned for six years from all football related activities had his ban reduced to four by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in 2016.
The 64-year-old, who lost the chance to stand for the presidency of global governing body FIFA as a result of his corruption charges, is still fighting to clear his name in the European Court of Human Rights.
Following earlier appeals, his ban expired in October and Platini hopes to get back to football politics, according to an interview the former France star granted a British newspaper, The Times.
The french football icon is regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all time. Platini won the Ballon d’Or three times, in 1983, 1984 and 1985, and came seventh in the FIFA Player of the Century vote.
Meanwhile, the man who appeared in the middle — Edson Arantes do Nascimento — known as Pele still remains neutral like an umpire till date as his name has not made the headlines for the wrong reasons, either on drugs or corruption matters that had smeared Maradona and Platini’s legacy respectively over the past years.
The Brazilian Pele as he’s fondly called is widely regarded as the greatest player of all time. He was among the most successful and popular sports figures of the 20th century. During his playing days, Pelé was for a period the best-paid athlete in the world.
Pelé, 79, began playing for Santos at age 15 and the Brazil national team at 16. During his international career, he won three FIFA World Cups: 1958, 1962 and 1970, being the only player ever to do so. Pelé is the all-time leading goalscorer for Brazil with 77 goals in 92 games. At club level he is Santos’ all-time top goalscorer, and led them to the 1962 and 1963 Copa Libertadores.