The man, the myth, the legend, the manager.

I know this is an English soccer blog, but really it’s a soccer supporter culture blog, focused on England. Still, I sometimes take excursions elsewhere, like in this case to Mexico for a Netflix series that will take you as close to the mind of Diego Maradona as it’s probably possible to get.

In his happy place.

Maradona is, of course, one of the all-time great players. He also comes off as a little crazy. In England, he’s generally just called a cheat for a blatant (missed by the referee) handball in a World Cup game. There have been drug problems, crazy life issues, drama on and off the pitch, footballing brilliance, and recently, a turn as a manager in the Mexican state of Sinaloa, hub of a massive drug cartel. What could go wrong?

This is the subject of a seven-part Netflix series, Maradona in Mexico. And what makes it so great is that whatever you think of the man, you’ll find something here to support your position. He is shown here in all his … glory?

It’s also, from my perspective, a view into a world I know little about but want to see: Mexican soccer, in this case the second division there. Drug war or not, I want to learn Spanish and head south.

Here’s the official trailer:

The series opens with a local club, Dorados, last place in the second division. The chairman decides to make a bold move and bring in as manager one of the sport’s true icons. The question is, of course, which version of the man will they get? The sweet and sentimental, the crazy, the passionate, the genius, the maddening, the inspiring?

Hail the savior.

The answer is yes. All of it. And, as viewers, we get to see it all. Three defining scenes capture all the contradictions in Maradona for me:

  1. He gives a passionate and humble speech about his love of the game and the city, and about the admittedly great work he had done as manager — at an event held in his honor for which he was hours late, without calling or notifying anyone, leaving everyone wondering if he would even show up.
  2. Another passionate speech after a tough loss in a big game, congratulating his players and spewing expletives about the referee. He had spent that game in the stands after getting a red card in the previous game.
  3. He’s overweight, crushed by arthritis, cursed wildly by opposing fans, but hugs players, dances with staff, and rapturously celebrates a goal he scores in training.

The reason I love the show so much is that it makes me happy, sad, scared, nervous, inspired, and disgusted. In other words, it’s a human story. And for showing both the human side of Mexican soccer and the human side of Diego Maradona — both with all their frailties and contradictions as well as their glowing lights — I highly recommend “Maradona in Mexico.”

Watch it here on Netflix.

Here’s my whole list of suggested books, films and programs.

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