“Symbolic! Unforgettable! To be treasured forever” remarked the commentators on what is called “The Goal of Century, which was Maradona’s goal against England in the 1986 World Cup. Throughout the semester there has been a recurring theme of how soccer became a medium for having international connections without violence, as in 1920, Jules Rimet, the president of FIFA, dreamt of channeling the conflicts of the world into “peaceful contests in the stadium.” In Emir Kusturica’s Maradona documentary, the audience sees Maradona through the eyes of Kusturica as the revolutionary the footballer, the man, the God, the family man, the drug-addict, and the legend. Kusturica values Maradona not only as a virtuoso player, but also as a man with a political view. As a result, throughout the documentary, there is this interplay between Maradona, soccer, and world politics. This relationship between soccer and international politics, as well as the comparison between soccer and war, which was touched on in Eduardo Galeano’s Soccer in the Sun and Shadow, were two major themes that stood out to me when watching the film.
In the decades that followed World War II, Latin America’s economic landscape changed drastically, as Great Britain and the United States both held political and economic interests in Latin America, whose economy developed based on external dependence. During the late 1970s and throughout the 80s, the U.S. pursued their interests through puppet governments and the elite classes who often ignored the demands of the peasant and working class. As a result, there were many major civil wars and pro-communist revolutions that erupted in Central America. Additionally, in 1982, the Falklands War broke out between Argentina and England over two British territories in the South Atlantic. The political and military conflict is portrayed throughout the movie,and the West is portrayed as this “evil.” The representation of the West as an evil is not only seen through Maradona’s eyes, but also through Kusturica’s when he shows the destruction of buildings in Serbia that were destroyed by Western forces and through his cinematography choices, as he puts the faces of western powers such as Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and George Bush on the bodies of animated cartoons.
These political tensions in the 1980s were manifested through the rivalries in the 1986 FIFA World Cup and the reason why Argentina’s victory over England was so meaningful. The “Goal of the Century” was so symbolic, unforgettable, and significant because Argentia was triumphing over a great world power, England, in soccer. In an interview with Maradona, he tells Kustrica that through soccer, Argentina’s national team was representing the dead who had died fighting in the Falklands War. Maradona states that beating England “was like winning a war, winning a football war” and this football war was “what spurred [the team] on.” Furthermore, when Maradona is asked about the infamous hand goal against England, Maradona says, “I was so thrilled with that goal, it was if I’d stolen an English man’s wallet, it felt like getting away with a prank.” This statement makes it seem that he didn’t care if they won in a beautiful fashion or an ugly one, as long as they won, it didn’t matter. Additionally, he states that the goal was so thrilling because he got away with something so illegal. It was like this “injustice” of using his hand to score a goal was karma for what the West was doing to Argentina at the time. Soccer seemed to be the place where roles could be easily reversed and that the underdog could triumph. Unlike the events going on in world politics, where England and other major powers were triumphing over these smaller countries in war, Kusturica remarks that these football matches were where these small countries could triumph ethically over these larger countries.