Genius, legend, star, god … There are many qualifiers that have been used this week to define Diego Armando Maradona following his death. The figure of the Argentine transcended football at a time when the South American country needed a figure to cling to to get out of a gray era. Maradona carried the country on his back and, with the ball at his feet, led him to become world champion in 1986 in Mexico and 1990 runner-up in Italy. He transferred the esteem with which he caressed the ball in each touch to all the Argentine homes, elevated that it to the maximum possible category. Only the appearance of Messi in recent years has shaken his throne as the best player in history that some are reluctant to take away from him, despite all that also led to the outside side of football. Explained Girona striker Nahuel Bustos, who had the opportunity to meet him last season before a match between Talleres and Gimnasia, the team led by Maradona, who felt “a tickle all over his body” aware that he was playing “an idol, a great football legend.”
If Bustos felt something almost mystical in his embrace, what was it like to play by his side? During his career, Maradona defended the shirts of Argentinos Juniors, Barça, Napoli, Sevilla, Newell’s, Boca Juniors and the Argentine national team and shared a team with great players such as Schuster, Careca, Caniggia, Valdano and Suker, among others. others. He never did, however, with any Girona player. However, two players from the region had the honor of being able to play a game next to him. Even if it was friendly or ribbed. Manolo Valle and Arseni Comas, during their time at Barça Atlètic, are the only two privileged people who can explain how it feels to have played for Maradona’s own team. Valle (Santi Hilari Sacalm, 1959) did so during the inaugural match of the Miniestadi in 1982 between two teams from the first team and the subsidiary. For his part, Comas (St. Gregory, 1961) coincided in a friendly against the New York Cosmos during a tour in June 1984.
On September 24, 1982, Barça held a big party to inaugurate the Miniestadi. The field was filled with 16,000 people who were able to watch a match between a mix of the first team and the subsidiary. “We knew nothing. They summoned us the same day and gave the eleven. It was a coincidence but the truth is that I was very excited to play for his team. We had played some training matches against the first team but it was very different to play with him for a while “, explains Valle. Pere Gratacós, Esteve Fradera and Francesc Guitart had to shape of playing for the other team with Schuster while Quim Ferrer and Pep Boada were also in Maradona’s team but entered when the Argentine had already been replaced. Valle remembers that that was “a round day” for him because he also scored the first goal in the history of the Miniestadi. “He congratulated me, yes. He was very close to all the young people, even if he didn’t know us. It was not strange and encouraged us. Valle considers it “a pity” that he could not succeed at Barça and, without wanting to value it, describes that Maradona always had “a lot of people around”. “I didn’t see it but they said their house looked like a hotel,” he says. In this sense, the jungle man explains that all too often there were boys that no one knew in the training of Barça Atlètic who said that Maradona had told them to come. « We are friends of Diego. So go ahead. What did you want to tell them … Then they wouldn’t come back and after a few days others would come, ”he explains.
The Hilary only played that game in the Mini with Maradona. At the end of that season, however, Valle signed for Cádiz where he met Mágico González. “Alert with the level I had. It was very, very good, on another level. If he had been on a big, motivated and well-kept team, there would have been a lot more talk about it “, says Valle, who recalls that the Salvadoran” liked other things as much or more than football. He chose what he wanted to do and how to live.
Seni Comas’ experience with Maradona was at the end of the Argentine’s time at Can Barça. It was June 1984 and after the Cup kick-off final against Athletic, Maradona was sanctioned for three months and was unable to play in the League Cup. This meant that the Argentine, along with Clos and Migueli, also sanctioned, traveled to the United States to play in the Transatlantic Challenge Cup with a mix of players from the branch and two guests, Mágico González (Cádiz) and Husillos (Murcia). With them was also a Comas I already knew.
The story of St. Gregory’s defense with Maradona could have begun a few years earlier at the 1979 Japan World Youth Championships – which Argentina won – if Spain had not been prematurely eliminated against Poland. “Coach Chus Pereda warned me I would have to score him. They eliminated us and I had a thorn in my side, ”he says. That 83-84 season, Comas had returned to the branch after playing on loan to Recreativo, Alcalá and Granada. “It was a good year and in the end a few of us went on tour. It was a very beautiful experience.
Comas recalls that Maradona was already “a real idol of the masses” in New York. He reveals that while the whole expedition was traveling by bus around the city, the Argentine and Mágico were in “a private car” and had “a different status.” “They were going at a different pace,” he adds. Comas was the starter in the game that Barça lost against Cosmos (5-3) and in which he shared eleven with Maradona. “I had always been the thorn in Japan’s side and being able to share minutes with him was beautiful,” he says.
The are depth of Comas
Of that American experience Comas keeps a funny anecdote. “We were given a fire drill at the hotel. The alarm went off and all the players went down to the entrance except Maradona, Mágico and me “, he reveals. Comas was not with them. “I don’t know where they were or what they were doing, but I was sleeping like a sock and I didn’t wake up. I have a very deep sleep, ”he says.
For Comas, Maradona “along with Messi” are the two best players in history. Comas recalls that he was “lucky” to play with Maradona, “coach Messi with Pere Gratacós at Barça B” and also to face Cruyff when he played for Recre and the Dutchman for Levante.