The Hand of God – Extract

“It was a part-time truck-driver with a good ear for neighbourhood gossip who gave Diego Maradona his first real break. Jose Trotta was driving one of his clients home when he was told that there was a boy in Villa Fiorito who, when it came to kicking a football around, seemed to have something rather special about him. Trotta’s client, a man named Carrizo, was a neighbour of Chitoro, and his son Goyo played football with the young Maradona. Chitoro had started up his own local football team calledEstrella Roja (Red Star) since arriving in Buenos Aires, but by the time he was introduced to Trotta, he was open to any offers that might be made relating to his son’s future. His own salary was scarcely sufficient to cover the costs of the upkeep of his growing family. Inn Trotta’s presence, Goya and his father talked wonders about ‘Diegito’, and Chitoro offered no contradictions. Chitoro willingly acceded to Trotta’s request that the young Diego should be introduced to Francisco Cornejo, the trainer of Cebollitas, the youth team of the first-division club Argentinos Juniors. Goyo took it upon himself to kick-start the promotion, for he himself had already been talent-spotted by Cornejo, and was keen that his friend Diego, a year younger than himself, should join him in this first step in a football career. Cornejo recalls the first day that Goyo Carrizo tries to sell Maradona: ‘ I had been with Cebollitasfor several years and was happy with the players I had. I wasn’t particularly looking for new talent. Goyo came to me and said that he knew of this kid in Fiorito who played better than he did. At first I thought, so what? In the world I moved in, people came to me every other day claiming there was a kid they knew very well who was brilliant. But I thought, what have I got to lose? So I told Goyo that he might as well bring him along. And he did. That is where history began.’ “

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