Argentina's Soccer Saint Is Back
It's cocaine-addict, stomach-stapled, socialist saint
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 28, 2009 10:12 AM CDT

(Newser) – Diego Maradona arrives at practice like an eclipse. Suddenly, no one much cares about the players on the Argentinean national team—not even the great Lionel Messi. It’s the coach, a 48-year-old, graying, thick-bodied man who draws the media swarms, reports the Washington Post in a profile. Maradona was once the greatest player Argentina’s ever seen, inspiring religious adoration. He’s also a recovering cocaine addict with a wild streak, and polls show most Argentineans don’t want him coaching the team.

The press has slavishly followed every twist in Maradona’s checkered post-playing career. “Everything that is abnormal and depraved, he has done,” said one detractor. Already one star has departed the national team over differences with him. But others say they love playing with the legend. Despite everything, Mardona is literally worshipped in Argentina—the Church of Maradona boasts more than 100,000 members, each baptized by punching a ball, in memory of his “Hand of God” goal.