It was exactly two years after Diego Maradona embraced immortality by almost single-handedly winning the 1986 World Cup for Argentina that Rodrigo Luis came to this world.
Maradona, who died two years ago after a long battle with drug abuse, continues to evoke incredible emotions in football-mad Argentina.
But Rodrigo, who now works as a sports journalist in Argentina for a living, relates to Lionel Messi more than Maradona.
“I know in Argentina people, especially the older generation, have never quite warmed up to Messi,” Rodrigo told this reporter at the Qatar National Convention Centre.
“Maybe because he still hasn’t won the World Cup, something Maradona so famously did. But I am not among those people. I belong to the Messi era!”
Rodrigo has only seen the old videos of Maradona’s Mexico magic, his two famous goals, one with a handball and other with a mazy run from inside his own half against England in the quarterfinal.
But he has seen Messi produce moments of outrageous brilliance countless times for Barcelona and occasionally for Argentina.
“I relate to Messi more because maybe I have seen him more,” he said.
But Rodrgio admitted it was only during a visit to Naples, the Italian city, that he truly understood how big Maradona was.
It was with Napoli, the club of Naples, that Maradona achieved superhero status again by inspiring the modest Italian team to win two Serie A titles.
Those triumphs came against the star-studded teams of Juventus, AC Milan and Inter when Serie A was the greatest league in the world.
For Messi to match that feat, he would have to guide a team like Villarreal to La Liga triumph.
So it was in 2011 that Rodrigo visited Naples with his family, almost 20 years after Maradona last played for Napoli.
“We were eating at a restaurant when the owner realised that we were from Argentina. He got so emotional that he refused to take money from us,” Rodrigo recalled.
“My whole family just ate in his restaurant but he would not accept money. Why? Because we were from Argentina, the country where Maradona was born.
“I was so amazed by that man’s gesture that I almost had tears in my eyes. I realized how we are indebted to Maradona for giving us an identity. I still get goosebumps thinking of that day!”
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