One of a kind: Jordaan shares special Diego moments

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Danny Jordaan and Diego Maradona swapped shirts during the late Argentinian coach’s visit to South Africa before the 2010 World Cup kicked off. Picture: Getty images
Danny Jordaan and Diego Maradona swapped shirts during the late Argentinian coach’s visit to South Africa before the 2010 World Cup kicked off. Picture: Getty images

SPORT


When most teams that participated in the 2010 Soccer World Cup opted for five-star hotels that were situated near trendy shopping malls as their base camps, all Diego Maradona wanted for Argentina was a facility located within walking distance of the training grounds.

This is what Safa president Danny Jordaan, who was serving as chief executive of the World Cup local organising committee, observed about the legend he described as the “human face of football”.

“Maradona said he didn’t want to travel by bus to the training grounds, but wanted a team base where he’d be able to walk to the grounds,” recalled Jordaan of his moments with the Argentine icon, who died of a heart attack at his home on Wednesday, aged 60.

diego
Pupils from Kgotlelelang Primary School in Soshanguve, Pretoria, mob Maradona during his visit to South Africa in 2010. Picture: Getty Images

Back in 2010, Maradona came to the country twice.

The two-time world champions were based at Pretoria University’s High Performance Centre, but Maradona first touched down in the country on an inspection mission a few months before the tournament.

THE PEOPLE’S PERSON

Like the late president Nelson Mandela, Maradona knew how to make people around him not feel intimidated by his stature, Jordaan pointed out.

“Madiba and Maradona were ordinary human beings, rooted people.

“All these top people have their security around them, making it difficult for anyone to come in close contact. Not with Maradona or Madiba. Instead, they’d always tell a joke or two to break the ice and oblige anyone [asking] to take a photo or engage them in a conversation.”

READ: Maradona was one of a kind – Jomo Sono

This was illustrated by Maradona’s whirlwind tour before the 2010 World Cup, when he made a short stop at schools in Ga-Rankuwa and Soshanguve.

“I have received many welcomes in my football career across the world, but the warmth you have shown me will make me not forget this day in my lifetime,” said the legend at the time.

“With each kiss and every hug, I felt I had a friend.”

2010 WORLD CUP SUPPORTER

Maradona’s name is synonymous with the World Cup, having led Argentina to their second triumph as a player in 1986, and later qualifying La Albiceleste for the 2010 edition as a coach.

It turned out to be fitting that South Africa’s World Cup served as his final involvement in international-level football.

His two-year tenure as Argentina coach – between 2008 and 2010 – ended after the tournament, when his contract was not renewed.

The Lionel Messi-led Argentina were eliminated by Germany in the quarterfinals.

While Maradona had mixed memories of that global football spectacle, Jordaan lauded the Argentine icon for taking on those who criticised the project.

All these top people have their security around them, making it difficult for anyone to come in close contact. Not with Maradona or Madiba.
Danny Jordaan

“He attacked those who criticised Africa’s first World Cup, including some of the football legends who did not support us.

“Maradona was looking forward to our World Cup because he was so stressed after Argentina had struggled to qualify.

“With Maradona’s death, a piece of football has died,” Jordaan told City Press from Cairo, Egypt, where he was attending Friday’s CAF Champions League final.

TREASURED MEMORABILIA

“It’s there in my office,” said Jordaan when asked about the autographed Argentina shirt he got from Maradona in 2010, bearing the inscription “To my friend Danny”, followed by El Diego’s signature.

“All those who worked in the 2010 World Cup will miss him. You just see by the reaction to his passing how Maradona touched football,” said Jordaan.

TRIBUTE FROM MZANSI’S OWN NO 10

Jomo Sono might not have been as close to Maradona as he was to Brazilian legend Pelé, but the South African great has hailed the Argentine hero as one of a kind.

“Forget the Maradona lifestyle outside of football because we are all human beings and make mistakes at the end of the day. The Maradona I knew was one of a kind, an extraordinary football talent,” Sono told City Press.

The 65-year-old Jomo Cosmos owner/coach was a team-mate of Pelé at US side New York Cosmos in the late 1970s.

The Brazilian has for many years been compared with El Diego, regarding who was the best player between the two.

Like the two South American greats, Sono also created his legacy in a number 10 jersey.

This week was sad for football. We also lost Anele Ncgongca, who was such a humble human being, despite having played with some of the best players in Europe
Jomo Sono

Orlando Pirates have retired the number in his honour, as did Napoli in 2000 in honour of Maradona, who played for the Italian club between 1984 and 1991.

“There is a special breed of sports star whom you only get to see once in a lifetime – Maradona, [Portugal legend] Eusébio, Pelé, [Dutch great] Johan Cruyff and [boxing legend] Muhammad Ali,” Sono said.

“This week was sad for football. We also lost Anele Ncgongca, who was such a humble human being, despite having played with some of the best players in Europe.”

Former Bafana Bafana and Mamelodi Sundowns defender Ncgongca (31) died in a car crash in the early hours of Monday near Mtunzini in KwaZulu-Natal. He will be buried on Thursday in Gugulethu, Cape Town.


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Daniel Mothowagae 

Deputy sports editor

+27 11 713 9001
Daniel.Mothowagae@citypress.co.za
www.citypress.co.za
69 Kingsway Rd, Auckland Park

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