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Legendary Soccer Player Diego Maradona Dies At 60

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona has died of a heart attack. Here's NPR's Philip Reeves.

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: No one disputes Diego Maradona was one of the world's greatest-ever soccer players. The question is, was he the greatest?

RICHARD SANDERS: There was always a debate - who was the greatest footballer of them all? Was it Pele or was it Maradona?

REEVES: Richard Sanders made a TV documentary about Maradona and interviewed him multiple times.

SANDERS: Argentinians certainly, certainly thought Maradona. I mean, he was a wonderful, wonderful footballer. He just had everything.

REEVES: Maradona came from a poor neighborhood in Buenos Aires. He rose to fame in Argentine soccer in the 1970s. In 1982, he moved to Barcelona for a record-breaking transfer fee and then two years later to Napoli in Italy.

(CHEERING)

REEVES: Maradona made 91 appearances for Argentina's national side. There's one game everyone remembers.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #1: The Azteca Stadium...

REEVES: Argentina against England in the quarterfinal of the 1986 World Cup. Maradona scored two goals that went down in history. In the first, he illegally used his hand. Sanders again.

SANDERS: So it was called the hand of God because after the game, Diego was asked, did you handball it? And he said it was part the hand of God, part the head of Maradona, which I thought was a wonderfully clever way of deflecting the question.

REEVES: Four minutes later, this happened.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #2: Goal. Goal.

SANDERS: You know, I can vividly remember it. You - he just takes off. And he just keeps going, and he keeps going, and he keeps going. And you're thinking, he's really not going to do it, is he? And then he just puts it away.

REEVES: Maradona's 66-yard dribble stunned the Argentine TV commentator.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #2: (Speaking Spanish).

REEVES: What planet are you from, he asks. That goal has been called the best ever scored in a World Cup. Just over a decade later, Maradona ended his playing career. But his struggle with alcohol and cocaine kept him in the headlines, and so did his health problems. Yet, as Argentines mourn Maradona, they'll remember a small, sparkling man who danced past defenders as if they didn't exist and who might just have been the greatest soccer player the world has seen.

Philip Reeves, NPR News, Rio de Janeiro. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.