A Personal History of the World Cup: Part Three
Mexico 1986 was the third World Cup which took place with me on the planet, but it was still another four years until this event fully registered in my mind. But this was the first World cup which I knew was on.
I was still very much an oval ball 10 year old- I played Rugby for Kahukura RFC on Saturdays and League for Central RLFC on Sundays. This was unusual since you tended to play one or the other, even more unusual given that I was a lanky white kid with no special talent for either code. I played full back, not for my running skills, more that the ball never really made it that far, and thats where I'd do the least damage!
It was the very fact that I played so much rugby/league that I would always go in goal whenever Soccer did break out in the playground, and in 1986 it started breaking out more than ever, like the first scarlet blossom of acne on the untainted chin of youth; looking back I blame the Mexico World Cup.
It was in one such game that I pulled off a scorpio-kick save, 9 years before Rene Higuita. I kid you not, this manoeuvre was the talk of my school- a shot was fired over my head and I reacted too late to save with my hands, instead I managed to curl my legs over my head like a whale arcing its flukes as it dives, the ball struck the back of my legs and bounced into my hands as I hit the ground. A fluke yes, but it was my fluke.
But I digress, Mexico 1986 was still a mere blip on my football radar, except for one thing. Whenever anyone cheated or pushed the laws of the game they'd earn a nickname that echoed the racist sentiment of the argie bargie of the Falklands 'war'.
The name Maradona became a mysteriously charged synomoym for mercury and guile. For me its proximity to the equally charged word Madonna, she of the similarly quixotic gyrations, meant it was as erotic as it was exotic- an 'other' word, an alien puzzle to beguile a pre-adolescent.
Plus the addition of those two letters 'Ra' in the already imprinted moniker Madonna meant that the unintentional invocation of the Egyptian, and Maori, Sun Gods (both known as Ra) was a fitting tribute to the image of the man hinself, tiwsting and turning, in the Azteca stadium against England, as the Aztec Sun god himself shone a brilliant shadow on the pitch. Magical.