There is an anecdote about Diego Maradona’s time at Napoli that is shared repeatedly by teammates, when he defied club orders to take part in a charity match in a muddy field, and practiced the Hand of God.
The incident is remarkably on film, as one of the locals happened to have a video camera, still a relative rarity in the early 1980s.
“When Pietro Puzone, our teammate, asked us to help the parents of a child who needed to have a very expensive operation on his eyes and didn’t have the money, Diego immediately said yes,” explained Bruno Bruscolotti.
“He had experienced what it was like to be poor, so he did not hesitate to help others in that situation. He’d hand out money to waiters and dishwashers, but that was nothing. He was constantly doing charity work. He taught us so much, and not just on the football field.”
Many teammates have told the story of the time Maradona came to Acerra, on the outskirts of Naples, with the entire Napoli squad in full kit to play a charity match on a muddy field in 1984.
The images of the world’s greatest player warming up in a car park before playing on a pitch with practically no grass on it really do speak for themselves.
It is said Napoli didn’t give permission for the match, as the insurance wouldn’t cover the players in these conditions, so Diego paid for it himself.
The man who was refereeing that game, Pasquale Castaldo, reveals another intriguing detail to the Corriere dello Sport.
“He scored a goal with the ‘Hand of God’ technique, but I disallowed it. Everyone thought I’d blown the whistle for offside, but I made a gesture of handball. He admitted to it and congratulated me at the final whistle.
“I’ve told this story to my children and my grandchildren. I will never forget that game.”
Maradona was to try the same trick a couple of years later against England, but the referee that time wasn't as sharp as the retired traffic warden.