Perhaps very few know the second surname, but he always took care to make it clear in all the positions he took. Shared or not, he never stopped being sincere. “I am either black or white, I will not be gray in my life”he ever said Diego Armando Maradona Franco, the greatest editorialist in football. A genius, often misunderstood, as many headlines with his mouth as with his size 39 left-handed chimpanzee that exuded magic wherever he stepped.
Maradona He was a universal person, but few knew Diego. One of those privileged people was Ramón Mifflin, a living legend of Peruvian football, who keeps gifts from the Argentine at home, but has an invaluable treasure in his memory: the moments lived with him, his great friend. The joys and sadness. The laughter and the crying. The old women and the roasts at home. A year after his departure, ‘Cabezón’ shares with Deporte Total the best memories of his friendship with ‘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 that he has died. 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 painful that it ended that way.
– What do you mean?
I think he really missed the family. The separation with Claudia for him was fatal. He was very familiar, he loved his loved ones 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 went out and at the door there were 200 people waiting to see him. I couldn’t go to a restaurant because it was flooded with people. I didn’t go shopping or to the movies. People suffocated him. Everyone thinks it’s nice to be famous, but I think he had a suffering inside of not being able to share with his family like any other person.
“Have you ever complained about fame?”
He commented that fame was beautiful because it was close to the people, but there comes a time when it becomes a pressure. It is boring and maddening. You have to live in hiding, you are not the owner of your freedom. Fame goes from being pretty to being a nuisance. He complained in private 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?
They have told me a thousand things, but I have tried not to listen. I keep all the beauty that I enjoyed, with all the good that I had by his side.
“When was the last time you saw him?”
Four years ago in Sao Paulo, Brazil. There was a problem at 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 Oscar Rugeri, the Paraguayan José Luis Chilavert, among other figures from South America. And, of course, there was Diego. When he came to dinner at the hotel he came to my table to greet me, hug me, always so affectionate. We stayed in conversation with Percy and Oscar until late at night. Later, when I went to Buenos Aires, I couldn’t see it.
–How did your friendship come about?
I was a good friend of Miguel Ángel Brindisi, with whom I played in Racing. He played with Maradona in Boca Juniors and in 81 they came for a match against Universitario that won the cream table 1-0 with a goal from Escobar. The day 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 as 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 there, I took the opportunity to go to Barcelona to see Brazil-Argentina and, as I have a great friendship with César Luis Menotti, then Barza 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, noon and night. Diego and Cyterszpiler were there too. We became great friends.
–When you signed for Napoli, you were one of the privileged ones that was the day of your presentation
He put a plane to take his friends and we were like 30 people. The San Paolo stadium, which now bears his name, was bursting. That’s where his story began.
-That presentation is one of the biggest in the history of football, how was that day?
Since you arrived in the city you could see the fever. There were people with wigs that alluded to their hair, his masks, sweaters. Impressive what was lived.
– What was he like with his friends?
An out of the ordinary. A smart boy. He was not crazy, he was well spoken. He had good principles, kind to everyone. He cared for those he could and was always concerned that everyone is well.
–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 agree and he shows up at the house with mariachis. He sang me las mañanitas. He had a good voice, he sang very well.
– What anecdote do you remember the most?
Uff! I have enjoyed everything that I have been through with him. In Japan, a 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 got up to dance. We had a great time.
– What is the most precious memory you have of him?
The complete uniform that you gave to my son. T-shirt, shorts, socks and sweaters. I also have T-shirts and I kept two bottles of wine that he gave me and I have them so far. I have not touched them.
– Have you ever told you something about the personal brand that Luis Reyna did to you in 1985?
Yes. He told me that they had never put a mark like that. In ’82, the Brazilians named Batista and later the Italians named Claudio Gentile. The difference is that Batista and Gentile kicked him, but Reyna did not let him receive, he scored very well.
– You were in the Azteca Stadium box when Maradona scored the two historic goals against England in Mexico 86, how did you experience it?
In the second goal, in which he takes everyone ahead, when he scores he runs towards 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 banner. We were with his family watching the game. His dad was very excited, happy.
– Was he also when he was crowned world champion?
Of course. When he won the World Cup, we went to the rally 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 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. There I was 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 have been a convert. It was prepared in the best way. If you realize, he had no ill intention. When they take it 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 bad impression on him.
– Diego once said: ‘what player would he have been if he didn’t use drugs’, what do you think?
What he did was enough to 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?
Pelé is the best. Then comes Diego, then Messi and the last Cristiano Ronaldo. That’s where Johan Cruyff may come from. I met Di Stéfano at the World Cup in Spain when I played a veteran’s game 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 an out of the ordinary, he put the team on his shoulder, he had a temper. Messi is a genius, but we have to wait for him, you do not see the status of leader that Maradona had.
– What was it about Maradona that made him unique on the pitch?
Its capacity, its waste of quality. It amused us all. People were dying to go see it because it had to be a good show. It was like going to a Luis Miguel concert. You know you are going to see something good. Diego was a person chosen by God to give a show to the world.
–Diego has also been very close to several Peruvian players, right?
Yes. He was very admirer of Teófilo Cubillas, Roberto Chale, Héctor Chumpitaz. I knew and admired them.