Maradona he was a universal person, but few knew Diego. One of those privileged was Ramón Mifflin, a living legend of Peruvian soccer, who keeps gifts from the Argentine at home, but in his memory he has an invaluable treasure: the moments lived with him, his great friend. The joys and sadness. The laughs and the tears. The old ones and the roasted ones at home. 36 years after the day that Maradona became ‘D10s’, the ‘Cabezón’ shares with Total Sport the best memories of his friendship with the ‘Pelusa’.
– How did you experience the death of Diego Maradona?
The news of his death was shocking to me, I did not expect it. I travel to Buenos Aires very often and knowing that he is no longer there, I don’t know, makes me doubt very much that he is dead. I can’t imagine Argentina without Diego. I have had the privilege of being his friend and being by his side in Buenos Aires, Barcelona, Naples, when he came to Lima as well. I traveled with him to Germany, Russia, Japan. It was very sad that he ended that way.
–What do you mean?
I think he missed his family a lot. The separation with Claudia was fatal for him. She was very familiar, she loved her family very much and having to separate was a very hard blow.
–How was Diego’s coexistence with fame?
Diego had no private life. When I was with him in Naples, he couldn’t go outside. He was going out and at the door there were 200 people waiting to see him. I couldn’t go to a restaurant because it was inundated with people. She didn’t go shopping or to the movies. People suffocated him. Everyone thinks it’s nice to be famous, but I think he suffered inside not being able to share with his family like any other person.
– Have you ever complained about fame?
He commented that fame was nice because it was close to people, but there comes a time when it becomes pressure. She is boring and desperate. You have to live hidden, you are not the owner of your freedom. Fame goes from being pretty to being a nuisance. He would complain privately when he was with us, his friends. There came a time when he couldn’t take it anymore.
-A year after your departure, how do you remember it?
I’ve been told a thousand things, but I’ve tried not to listen. I am left with everything nice that I enjoyed it, with all the good times I had with her.
–When was the last time you saw him?
Four years ago in Sao Paulo, Brazil. There was a problem in Conmebol and on behalf of Peru we went with Juan Carlos Oblitas, Percy Rojas, directors of Alianza, Universitario and San Martín. There were the Brazilian Romario, the Argentine Óscar Rugeri, the Paraguayan José Luis Chilavert, among other figures from South America. And, of course, there was Diego. When he arrived for dinner at the hotel he came to my table to greet me, hug me, always so affectionate. We stayed talking with Percy and Oscar until late at night. Later, when I went to Buenos Aires, I couldn’t see it.
– How did your friendship begin?
I was a good friend of Miguel Ángel Brindisi, with whom I played in Racing. He played with Maradona in Boca Juniors and in 1981 they came for a match against Universitario that won the cream team 1-0 with a goal by Escobar. The day that Hugo Sotil reinforced them. I went to the airport with my son who was 12 years old, he was dying for Diego, and we received Brindisi who came with Jorge Cyterszpiler, Diego’s manager, and his father. Don Diego recognized me. I took them to the hotel, then we went to the Nacional to watch the game, they invited me to dinner and we started talking. Maradona gave the entire uniform to my son and he keeps it like a treasure.
-That was the first meeting with Diego
Yes. Later I went to Argentina and he received me at his house. Then for the World Cup Spain 82, I was Tim’s assistant in the Peruvian team. While I was there, I took the opportunity to go to Barcelona to watch the Brazil-Argentina match and, as I have a great friendship with César Luis Menotti, then Barza’s coach, I stayed in the city for about a year. I wanted to learn from ‘Flaco’, see how he worked, how he put together his teams. He shared with Menotti morning, afternoon and night. There were also Diego and Cyterszpiler. We became great friends.
–When you signed for Napoli, you were one of the privileged ones who were there on the day of your presentation
He put a plane to take his friends and we went like 30 people. The San Paolo stadium, now named after him, was bursting. That’s where his story began.
-That presentation is one of the greatest in the history of football, how was that day?
As soon as you arrived in the city you could see the fever. There were people with wigs that alluded to his hair, his masks, sweaters. Impressive what was lived.
How was he with his friends?
An out of series. A smart boy. He was not crazy, he was well spoken. He had good principles, kind to everyone. He took care of those he could and always worried that everyone was okay.
–Diego brought mariachis to his 40th birthday, a gesture that shows the friendship that unites them
Yes. I was in California and he happened to be in town too. My wife contacts him, they come to an agreement and he shows up at the house with mariachis. He sang to me in the morning. He had a good voice, he sang very well.
What story do you remember the most?
Whoops! I have enjoyed everything that I have spent with him. In Japan, the country where we arrived with him, his father, his brother-in-law and Carlos Bilardo, for a UNICEF charity game, we went to a disco and he went up to dance. We had a great time.
What is the most precious memory you have of him?
The complete uniform that he gave to my son. T-shirt, shorts, socks and boots. I also have t-shirts and I kept two bottles of wine that he gave me and I still have them. I haven’t touched them.
–Did you ever tell him something about the personal mark that Luis Reyna made on you in 1985?
Yes. He told me that they had never put a mark like that on him. In 1982, the Brazilians named Batista and later the Italians named Claudio Gentile. The difference is that Batista and Gentile kicked him, while Reyna didn’t let him receive, he marked him very well.
-You were in the box of the Azteca Stadium when Maradona scored the two historic goals against England in Mexico 86, how did you experience it?
On the second goal, the one where he leads everyone, when he scores he runs to the corner flag and raises his hand, remember?
We were there. The box, which belonged to a friend of mine who lived in Mexico, was in front of the pennant. We were with his family watching the game. His father was very excited, happy.
-Were you also there when you were crowned world champion?
Of course. When he won the World Cup we went to the concentration and took a photo with the Cup. Someone must have that photo, I don’t have it. Diego took out the trophy and called me to participate in the photo.
-In the United States 94, Maradona lives one of the most controversial moments of his career when he was taken out in the middle of a game by a nurse, were you there too?
Yes, that was at Foxboro Stadium in Boston. I was there with Cachito Ramírez and Kike Vidal, a journalist from Panamericana. In the World Cup I remember that I visited him a lot, I was by his side. For me, someone there betrayed him.
He went with Fernando Signorini, his physical trainer, with whom I became a good friend and until now I talk. He prepared in the best way. If you realize, he did not have any bad intentions. When they take him out he comes out smiling, happy, content. At no time does he show that he has taken something to help himself, he did not need it. They made a mess of him.
–Diego once said: ‘what player would I have been if I didn’t use drugs’, what do you think?
What he did was enough for the admiration of the world. Surely it would have lasted longer, much longer.
– You met and played with Pelé and Maradona, and now you see Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, how would you form your top4 with them?
Pele is the best. Then comes Diego, then Messi and lastly Cristiano Ronaldo. That’s where Johan Cruyff can come from. I met Di Stéfano at the World Cup in Spain when I played a veterans match with him. Puskas was also a great.
–Why is Maradona better than Messi?
Because he was much more productive on the court. What happens is that now the media are more present. Diego was one of a kind, he put the team on his shoulders, he had a temperament. Messi is a genius, but you have to wait for him, you don’t see the leadership status that Maradona had.
-What did Maradona have that made him unique on the pitch?
His capacity, his waste of quality. It amused us all. People were dying to go see it because it was a good show. It was like going to a Luis Miguel concert. You know you’re going to see something good. Diego was a person chosen by God to put on a show in the world.
-Diego has also been very close to several Peruvian players, right?
Yes. He was a great admirer of Teófilo Cubillas, Roberto Chale, Héctor Chumpitaz. He knew them and admired them.