For Maradona, star of the popular stage

It’s often that you hear about how moving images broke free of the dark screening room’s grasp and that this expansion made space for audiences more diverse than ever before. 

I am not sure if the fanciful, industrial halls of art galleries or the imposing, mighty pillars of museums are any more inviting or any less daunting than the situating seats of a cinema. I also doubt that the type of works on display in these places would attract a more manifold group of people than the iconic performers of popular cinema like Totò, the cranky prince from Rione Sanità.

Because to constantly broadcast football promises its greater accessibility, although the underlying profit-seeking motives could not be disguised by the conceited and presumptuous mottos of the art world. 

And those motives contaminate the public experience with promises destined to fail. Hence the empty, cavernous halls and the intensifying skepticism opposed to the soulless if not scripted events football has become.

Popular cinema stands for the contrary; for the pride of sincerity, for times when populism wasn’t a dirty word and mass entertainment wasn’t exploited by the ruling class. Apart from Totò and those special comedies from post-war Italy, it is Charlie Chaplin who immediately comes to my mind regarding these slogans.

And Chaplin’s footballing equivalent was Diego Maradona, another tiny man of paramount accomplishments who personified an entire medium for the whole world, whose unrestrained brain was constantly bursting out ingenious ideas and whose personal eccentricity and mid-career apotheosis overshadowed everything else.

Just like Chaplin, Maradona is much more than the few signature masterstrokes with which he stupefied millions and, just like Chaplin, is not often enough discussed today as one of the prime architects of the game, an equal of Michel Laudrup or Andrea Pirlo – an equal of Jean Renoir or Mizoguchi Kenji. 

But no matter, because like Chaplin, he’ll be remembered as the star who shined for the people. Unlike Chaplin, who dedicated most of his entire artistic life to investigating the crimes of capitalism and ridiculing the culprits, Maradona maintained this status because he had thrived on top before football got irreversibly associated with business. 

Like his less identifiable contemporary peers, Maradona also earned inconceivable amounts of money, but used this wealth to satisfy his hedonism, to proudly and unapologetically enjoy life as many would do; instead of separating himself in the luxury suburbs and maintaining an impenetrable privacy, which deprives today’s footballing elite of such public admiration. On the other hand, if it was the suffocating influence of capitalism that escalated his downfall, his victimhood is early proof of what shouldn’t have been allowed into the apparatus of football culture.

Either way, from the popular perspective, he shall be glorified.  

And he will be. Because like Chaplin, Maradona will be eternal. 

We honor them with this double bill: