Maradona: Another LUO curse of a jilted woman
Updated: Jun 5, 2021
* (Diego is a name just like Jesus, Christopher, Issa, Binaissa, Bizimungu or Lady Isa. Diego is short for Santiago or St James. In it's original meaning, it is St James protect us. The word play in "hand of god" or "god is dead" is a normal newspaper word play. For example Pele the god of miracles was often played in newspapers. Closer to home, Gor Mahia FC fans used to joke that , "after playing Gor in the first half; in the second half of the game they will send out Mahia- miracle.)
Diego Armando Maradona life was very much the the life of any part of the world of a boy coming from deprived condition. It reminded me a lot of growing up from the relics of Lakeside East Africa
There is nothing about Maradona life that the world does not know but the Life and the Times of Diego who was recently hurriedly buried is very much the life of any typical supremely gifted Luo man.
Watching Maradona playing at the world cup of 1986, my cousin Maurice Omuga, noticed one thing that when Maradona set out on those mazy runs then nothing brought him down until the ball is in the net. And then he would stumble up celebrating as if the fouls did not matter and all is forgotten. A graphic illustration of the life of a Luo fighting for Independence or seeking higher learning in some cold hostile environment even if raised from the most unlikely lakeside background. The single mindedness of my brethren when in pursuit of the perfect life and perfect result could be put in any Hollywood film and it would still be magical like a Maradona run. You can even slot President Barrack Obama or his father Dr Barack Obama or the sister Dr Akumu Obama in that magical Maradona like run and the desired effect and in most cases same result would be an eventuality. Walking in any part of Luo land there is hardly a village without a home or a graveyard mound with a replica of a Diego Maradona type of Life. It is futile to try to recite them here.
At that time, it did not occur to me and my brother Maurice that Diego Maradona was playing the life of a Luo every time he did all those shooting star runs. What we also did not notice is that when he was eventually set to reign the world after transferring to Italy and winning the world cup he developed a new habit of falling down and stopping play after every foul and perceived foul which again is very much similar to thee life of a Luo once they get to the summit. He would then arise and shaking his head at such every short harmless tackle. My friend late coach Jack Johnson used to joke that it was too much cocaine but evidently something was weighing on child prodigy Diego Maradona. All which is very familiar on the east side of Nam Lolwe. Off the pitch he sometimes lashed out at the establishment falling prey to every cheap trap that the establishment set for him. Again very similar to Nam Lolwe life at the summit. The sons of the lake swallow every bait line hook and sinker, including yellow tinted fair ladies even if the yellow is peroxide enhanced.
We all know of much publicised rags to riches life of Diego Maradona from Buenos Aires, in Argentina. Only 3 footballers have caught my attention when touching the ball the way Diego did. Pele is something else and only those who have not watched his action at club level can doubt. I even had a chance to watch him at Los Angeles Coliseum against LA Aztecs even if it was his old self in the North American league. Pele is different. H is even black for a start. His own name Pele is a God. So we leave out of any discussion comparing mortals.
The other great who I did not watch much was George best who died on the same day as Diego but in 2005. But in no mean measure is the great Eric Omonge of Luo Union who fizzled out like a shooting star. I will not say much because he was too close to me.
The one I worked with closely was late Charles Otondi aka Loketo of Reunion (Luo Union FC). The way he understood a football sometimes made you feel that there is ghost playing the game with him or some sort of jini controlling opponents. Opponents seemed to be caught in trance as if the the Luo mbi hit them so that Otondi could do whatever he wanted to do on the pitch. Sadly Otondi had not heart for football. Whenever I suspended him for indiscipline I ended up retrieving him from the police station or hospital. He was in another world. My only recourse was to love him. And when that failed I just loved him more and more until I tamed him to play for me for 3 years. And you all know me. Love is never in short supply with me. That is why I can easily swap Maradona for Otondi and understand his story. And I can easily swap any Luo who sought the summit of their career and after reaching the summit and was then overcome by some powerful forces and ended up being buried in unmarked grave on Nam lolwe basin. It has become our life, a life of self-destruction at a very poetic age. But we are talking about Diego Maradona whose career you all know. So let us stick to that.
Later after fleeing Italian persecution (crucifixion) when Maradona was facing prosecution back home in Argentina also with his career in tatters, Diego lawyers successfully mitigated his case with a simple analogy paraphrased as follows, “Your honour, my client is a victim of the world and is facing persecution for doing no wrong. Your honour here is a child who at the age of 12 was shaking the hands of world leaders and receiving invitations to dine with 60-year-Olds. Diego my client stopped mental growth at 11 years of age. Diego is evidence of all that is wrong with the world at exploiting fellow human beings”.
Without saying it, Diego lawyer had evidently just pricked the Argentine guilt on how black African slaves had been exterminated in Argentina over a century ago. By extermination, I mean violently wiped out never to be seen and you will never see a black Argentine. In their world a black person could never be an Argentine. That is a world history Argentina does not want to be reminded of. It is a dark shameful history and whether Diego Armando played the resistance to the establishment is hard to tell.
In Diego life he showed signs of being perennially at the end of resisting the establishment even if his voice was not very well articulated. Sometimes he was alone like Richard Achieng Oneko in solidarity with Mau Mau or sometimes he veered towards Argwings Kodhek in defense against trampled up charges against Kikuyus. This is best exemplified with his adoration of the great Che Guevara. Why would he identify with a person who personally put his life for the freedom of Africa by travelling to fight deep into the Congo if he did not care about Africa? What was his drive in seeking out Fidel Castro, the head of a small country that stood in the path of the world power and uprooted the deeply rooted colonials out of Angola, Namibia and South Africa with one stroke? Only a person driven with some will against domination would ride into the eye of the storm the way Field Marshall John Okello ventured into Zanzibar to free a people so unrelated to him.
Sometimes people point to his mid finger celebration against Nigeria as a sign of bigotry. I say, not clear evidence. Among the Latino or in Spain an insult of punta (ochot) is just a pun that people use as a lingo. For example among the coastal of Kenya there are some things even a 5 year old can say to his mother and it is not taken seriously like it would along nam lolwe or Agikuyu land. Take for example when Jomo Kenyatta was addressing some Mombasa crowd in the 1960s and the crowd was not taking him serious, So Kenyatta goes, “kuma za mama zenu!” And the excited crowd even went a crescendo higher with the cheering of “yeaaaaaaaaaahhhh”. Jomo used it because at the coast that is not taken as an insult. But when on that tragic meeting in Kisumu in 1969 Jomo Kenyatta retorted, “Njaa ya nini, K… za m…zenu” the next response from the Kisumu crowd was bloody mayhem and Jomo never set foot in Nyanza soil ever again. I think just like the Kisumu crowd the middle finger celebration at a a win over Nigeria was harmless. It was just lost in translation as me mistaking the coastals saluting Peter Dawo second goal in Tunisia as an insult until it was clarified to me. Or similarly lost in translation is when Uhuru Kenyatta scoffed opposition and Prime Minister Raila Odinga with Agikuyu dialect “kwa nyokwa” (maka meru) at Nakuru stadium 'false' prayer meeting immediately after coming from the Hague.
If Diego was truly racist why did he persist in wearing an afro coiffure up to the very end. Nah, I don't buy that racism in Diego. He had no bone of malice in his body. He was just a troubled and confused soul like his lawyer said.
NAPOLI, ITALY RENDEVOUS
Naples or Napoli city is a metaphor for Diego life. He hit his high in Naples and like so many Napolitano great sons dying of endless vendetta this is where Diego hit his lowest low.
Diego became a God in Napoli and to the south of Italy because he restored pride to that City and southern region that had been looked down by cities in the north for so long.
It was significant because it’s was a statement like “we the south could be winners too". That hope to the locals resulted in Maradona’s face appearing in every wall cracked murals even today.
The last time a King came from that part of Italy was some 123 years. And here the little Argentine gave them the same hope. Maradona The history of the maligned south and what his success would mean to them was also not lost on Maradona.
Not lost the whole world is that supremely gifted Diego Maradona was at the summit of his career in Naples. This was also when he was receiving the super global adulation and everything was right in his life personally and in public. He had brought the title down south for the first time in many years. So widespread was his reign that in Kenya a reigning Kenya and regional football champion nicknamed their play-maker who was 10 years older as "Maradona". That is not normal and is very much un-African. In Africa you don't get named after a younger person. But that was evidence of the way Diego exploits bewitched the world that a Kenyan much older was tastelessly, unspiritual and unethically named after him and 100 million East Africans never saw how odd it was.
Napoli was playing dream football and in the field of play he had the best company and combination with black players such as master passer Careca of Brazil, local boy Carnevale and ominously named and "knifeman" De Napoli. Everyone was scared of De Napoli. Not that played with a Sicilian knife in his socks like Kenyan Jonathan Niva of Abaluhya Football club but he would stop the game to read the riot act to an opposing player who was dirty as if he was the referee and everybody including the referee recoiled in to their shell. The three operated like a well oiled machine. Such football was fleeting and coming after Diego had done the impossible by single handedly yanking the World Cup from the hands of more superior and mature sides as Holland, Italy, Brazil, France and West Germany.
After watching the European 1987 encounters with Stuttgart I turned to my friend late Caleb Onyango Kalle Kalle and said, “from now in it’s a down ward trend for Diego because the guy is at the very top of mountain top. There is nowhere to go after this”.
I had no idea of the undercurrents that was pulling him down and setting in a spiral of negativity. Fortunately, I was working with some liberal Northern Italians from Milano and Roma as part of Terra Nova the development foundation twinning Undugu Society. Luca Russo, Ranieri Sabbatucci and Fabio then started prompting me of the undercurrents.
Sometimes it is not good to be unchallenged in life and Maradona was exactly that in the periods after 1986 World Cup and it got worse because he had readymade detractors, sometimes from self-inflicted.
For example, there was the incident where a traffic police officer who was just dutifuly issuing a speeding ticket to Diego brother at the training ground was slapped around like a kid by non-other than Maradona himself with the idling paparazzi taking pictures. The traffic police officer's only fault was to dare issue a speeding ticket to Hugo. Does this arrogance at the top reminds you of any arrogance at the lakeside like Pesa Otas, Nairobi kae onge chuor ng'ato etc. How about the dragging of a non-playing Hugo bother to Napoli FC just because he can?
Such arrogance in Africa is not a problem but in some parts of the world it’s a big problem because you build an unwanted reputation. In the eyes of Italy here is an elderly traffic policeman in almost retirement age and 30 or so years Diego senior doing the job he has been doing even in harsh cold winter to make ends meet and to ensure that roads are safe and orderly for the privileged like Diego to enjoy their wealth. And the old man does so at an annual salary that is less than Maradona's 1 hour pay. Yet Maradona slapped him like an errant school boy caught placing a mirror under women teachers skirt. Italy and more or less the world could not take it. They were in uproar as the photos went round the world.
His PR and image spinners also did a shoddy damage limitation job or the world just stopped listening to whatever spin they were giving. From then on it was just how long he would stay standing.
Behind the scenes evidence was being collected and traps being laid yet his sins were much less than that by Bunga-Bunga prime minister or professionally practising prostitute politician who could appear top less at her rallies. Don’t forget this was a nation that believes it is better to be crooked than to be stupid.
Diego fate sealed his life at the top when the FIFA World Cup was hosted in Italy. Maradona and Argentina national team, the defending champion was slated to face minnows Cameroon from the very African history that every Argentina wants to run away from. In fact, the whole world wants to run away from the shame of Africa past evil history.
THE LUO CURSE OF A JILTED WOMAN' TEARS
I have to dig into Luo myth to unpack this ill Diego fate. You know me. By this time Diego was a God in the south of Italy. But there is a proverb from a novel from West Africa titled , "Not even God is ripe enough". I think the author is Bakare Gbadamosi of Nigeria. It is distant relative of the English 'Hell hath No Fury like a woman scorned'. Diego Maradona was just set to find out that his being God was nothing in this woman business.
When Diego arrived in Napoli his arrival coincided with the news that Italian woman Cristiana Sinagra had given birth to a young Diego. A claim that Diego vociferously denied. That period of denial appears to run parallel with the period of turmoil in Diego life and the years of self disintegration which sits pretty with the Luo curse of a jilted woman's tears.
Diego later came to terms with his life and accepted Diego junior but that period of turmoil had done its damage. Like any Luo such reconciliation arrived too late.
In the period of rejection of his son and mother of his son, Diego descended into bad taste and some not very friendly liaison. Napoli is an enchanting community and very communal like Nam lolwe basin where some laws govern lives more than state laws. If you tell Nam lolwe people to bury at night because of Corona, they will dig up the body and bury during the day. In general, southern Italy has an edge to it like Nam lolwe basin.
In addition to that it has western world also washing through like human trafficking of prostitutes, kidnapping, Cocaine; just like pilfering of county government funds, modern day slavery on Lake Victoria, transit point for organised crime. This was the area Diego was also navigating in a turbulent time in his personal life when he was simply not hearing the word “no” from anybody. So this is the Napoli period where the world really witnessed the Light and Shade of Maradona life in Napoli.
Behind the jilted woman's tears there is the subplot of Diego running face-off with black Africa that seemed to follow him like his own shadow.
In his first World Cup it was a near miss. He was barely 16 years of age and was destined to go to the successful 1978 World Cup which host Argentina eventually won against Netherlands. But his inclusion in that world cup squad of 1978 was not to be as the “establishment” overruled for other established names like Ricardo Villa, Leopoldo Luque, Mario Kempes, Oscar Ortiz (not a Lost Luo?). Maradona took it personally against the National coach but when he later learned of the true deep establishment influence against his selection, he quickly forgave the coach but shifted his aim on anything establishment in the world.
Even though Argentina lifted the 1978 World Cup, those in the know how believe it was luck that prevailed and if Holland did not hit the goal frame several times, then inquests of why Diego was left out of the squad would have followed. It’s also remarkable to note that those players who were preferred over Maradona few made it in European football. Top scorer Mario Kempes for one did not even make it at the trials at Tottenham hotspurs. Leopoldo Luque hardly got a sniff outside Argentina. In any case Africa and Diego did not go to the World Cup in 1978. Africa representatives Tunisia did, but I meant real Africa.
In 1982 FIFA World in Spain, it was close encounter between Africa and Diego. Diego went and was eliminated by Brazil in the second round while Black Africa went and Cameroon never lost a game even after playing the semi-finalists, Poland and the finalists, Italy. Just like Maradona's Argentina, the Africans left the World Cup empty handed but undefeated.
In 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico, Diego single handedly lifted the World Cup but both African teams were avoided.
It is at the FIFA Italia 1990 World Cup that Africa came face to face with Maradona and coincidentally Italy is also where Diego was now playing club football at a derided southern part of Italy at Napoli FC. This is a part of Italy that is very similar to Lake side Kenya. For one there is abundant mass of water. Which means fishing is the main industry for both areas. Both Southern Italy and Nam lolwe region also produce musical greats like Sicilian Domenico Modugno (Volare), Mario Telvi, Albano Carrissi, Franco Battiatto, Salavatori Csiarrino. South of Italy resembles Nam lolwe in musical artist production like Gabriel Omolo, Owino Misiani, Kabaselleh Ochieng, Washington Odhiambo, Ben-Blasto Bulawayo Artists and generally great artists. These two attributes they are patient habitat with occasional spectacular results like the birth of a talented person.
Both regions similarly produce great brilliant politicians but the deep state of the north (read central Kenya) have locked the seat of power and thrown away the keys. This attribute means that both regions has a natural duty care for one of their own.
Then there is the man made vendetta in both regions that normally follows a region that is under the thumb of authoritarian marginalisation. Southern Italy is the birthplace of Mafia (read seige mentality) just like Lake side Kenya is the seat of opposition politics, trade unionism and politics of advocacy.
And it is not abnormal to find homes with Black Madonna (statues of a black Virgin Mary) because they believe that Virgin Mary was a black woman just like Legio Maria, Roho Musalaba, Nomia, Yie- Kuom- Chier and all those lakeside faiths practicing revolutionary Christian faith.
In fact renowned novelist author Mario Puzzo (The Godfather, Sicilian) have put it on paper that whenever you stray to the south of Italy you can smell the air of Africa and all the novelty and hall marks deprivation that is Africa.
In other words, Diego Maradona’s anti-establishment rage had just had petroleum poured on it. Earlier in Barcelona, before he moved to Italy he played among the much marginalised independent seeking Catalans of Spain. But they could not protect him enough because he failed to read the script that the system is against Barcelona and Catalans. So when the hard tackling defender of the opposing team aptly named the butcher of Bilbao, Goicochea reminded him of the established order by breaking his leg, Barcelona relented and released him to Napoli without even a single penny or evidence of it.
But in Napoli it was different because Diego settled among a crowd who kept telling the north, “Nobody likes us and we don’t care”. And the northern ultras used to welcome the southern Italian teams with banners such as “Welcome to Europe”. Meaning Southern Italians are so poor and backward since they are part of Africa. To Maradona it was okay because he was in the best place to fight the established north with his football. And Maradona took everybody head on including FIFA (disclosing their fixture fixing).
With undercurrents of paternity wars, drugs, match fixing running in his private life, Argentina was slated to open the first game against Cameroon in the heart of the deep southern Italy hating north. And Maradona because he was playing for Argentina at the national level was shit-canned with Napoli and the whole Argentine squad. Milan was the last place that would embrace anything Napoli related. But here was where Argentine was opening their defence of the world cup title.
Some hand of mystery with supernatural powers was surely driving the fate of Diego and Maradona life into the eye of the storm. If you ask me and that is only if you ask, I will tell you it’s what my mother warned me against. "Never to cause a woman to shed tears because the curse is incurable".
How could mere scientific happenstance just by probability stalk and conspire to place Maradona to play against deep heart of black Africa, Cameroon whose descendants Argentina had wiped out by slaughtering centuries ago. Okay they were 11 players but Argentina was Maradona in this generation.
Argentina players were in hostile territory of san Siro stadium, Milan in the northern Italy when they went to open the campaign to defend the 1990 world cup because the whole of Italy suspected Napoli players as cocaine abusers but it’s Maradona the whole of Northern Italy wanted to jeer with unprintable vile chants. Now that the FIFA world cup “fate” had delivered him on a plate to the Northerners in the conspicuous opening world cup game against everybody's other favourite team Cameroon (1982), Diego knew what was coming . And the world was watching.
Even if Argentina won this game 10-0 still Cameroon and black Africa had to be extolled by these northern Italian fans. Indeed Eqypt also representing Africa was like a cellophane because the world was only interested in black Africa. Then same 'mysterious hand' just twisted the knife on Diego and Cameroon scored first. That was not in the fans mind but it was loudly welcomed. Now it did not matter what result will be and the Northern Italy fans wanted the match to end with that result. They turned to cheering Cameroon with gusto and jeering Argentina with every breadth.
And that “dark hand” or ill wind was not done with Diego and co either. A Cameroonian player was red carded just to underscore any injustice that was being perceived as a cause for any possible Argentina comeback. The stadium was deliriously cheering for Cameroon. Meanwhile red carded Cameroonian player instead of walking off the pitch to the dressing room, decided to first blow kisses to appreciating all round stadium already simmering volatile support. Honestly the game should now have been stopped because it wasn’t winnable. In boxing it was Ok to throw in the towel but this is football. Just wait a minute, the "ill wind" was not through with Maradona.
With one man less Cameroon team still leading star-studded World cup champion and Diego Maradona side by 1 goal to nil, that Luo curse of tears of a jilted woman scooped again in my Luo spiritual beliefs. I accept my Luo faith is primitive and unscientific but all faiths are unscientific including the supreme ones. A second Cameroon player was red carded. Now the whole world had been roped against Diego side. Every neutral and non neutral now wanted the 9 players of Africa to win. Interestingly fate wanted Diego to be there and feel the pain instead of being saved by a red card to the showers. And he was there until the end to watch and hear the heat of hatred after 90 minutes whistle for fulltime.
When weeks later Argentina came back to play the final in the hostile north at Rome against West Germany, the stage was set and they lost to a well-rehearsed penalty. Diego was crucified and the journey to his final professional end was truly on.
A banner in Italy or Argentina once once read, "It matters not what you have done with your life Diego, It is what you have done to our lives that matters to us!"
Like everybody else I am averagely superstitious. I read every happenstance in Diego's life with superstition. The naming of Diego and the similarity with the naming of the greatest footballer of all times, Pele of Brazil; The Luo word of Mahia and its relationship to Gor Mahia and their exploits in continental football. I can also recall that in the day of the world cup final in 1986, that Argentina won against West Germany, there was a football friendly game between Gor Mahia FC and Luo Union FC at the City stadium in Nairobi. Strangely enough the game had several strange stoppages from outside fights that had nothing to do with the game or the two clubs.
The other stoppage was when Gor Mahia team officials thought the Luo Union FC team had too many players and the referee ordered a head count. Another stoppage was when the KFF Secretary late Mahllon Danga walked on the pitch to calm the players as their perennial Luo vendetta (Napoli like) was a constant eye sore to the Luo community who are the bulk of the followers of the two clubs. He urged the teams to be an example to the wider Luo community. Calm play then resumed.
On the final stoppage, the City Stadium witnessed the most callous riots like had never been seen before between the two brotherly clubs. There were no police security or first aid as it was assumed that being a fraternity friendly between two clubs with same history there will be nothing but a cordial charitable friendly football. Anyway after the flare up we ran off towards City centre passing women and children who had been trampled on. Strangely enough the fight was nothing Luo but a revenge by Gor Mahia fans (on Abaluhya FC fans) who had been attacked the day before for coming to a game that did not involve them. After this "Falkland's fiasco I made it home to watch the real game between Diego and the West Germans. There were too many mystics in Diego life that I fail to rule out as mere happenstance and happenchance. There was a hand of something in this mans life as far as I am concerned
Rest in peace Diego.
Racham, nind gi kwe!