A tragic hero? An exploration of Diego Maradona’s stardom through national and local patriotism

Doehler, Steph (2022). A tragic hero? An exploration of Diego Maradona’s stardom through national and local patriotism. In: Official heroes and contested guerrillas: The role models of football fans’ patriotism, 1 Apr 2022, Université Libre de Bruxelles & Adam Mickiewicz University Poznan.


A genius and cultural figure who transcended the sport he played, Diego Maradona is one of the most important icons of popular football culture. The Pibe de Oro, or golden boy, is frequently hailed as the greatest footballer of all time and the protagonist of many iconic moments for the Argentinian national team. He became product of one of the poorest areas in Buenos Aires, and his imagery exemplified Maradona’s role as a cultural icon which, in many ways, exceeded the limits of both his nationality and his sport. Yet his life was tainted with scandal through volatile actions and statements, not only on the playing field but also in his unstable private life, which made him a contentious individual who defies clear characterisation. The fact that Maradona resonates as both a hero and villain depending on football and national allegiances only reinforces why he is worthy of such investigation. Following his world-record transfer to Napoli in 1984 Maradona was revered by Neapolitan supporters, but such admiration was not reciprocated across the rest of Italy where he was regularly characterised as a drug addict and criticised for alleged affiliations with the Camorra, a criminal Mafia-type organisation. This aim of this paper uses the Karpman drama triangle to investigate Maradona’s stardom through the lens of the hero, villain and victim. It will explore Maradona through national and local patriotism, considering the inter(national) rivalries he was involved in with Argentina and Napoli and analysing the cultural characteristics in a bid to understand his stardom.

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