Ex-international, Sunday Oliseh, has described as a shock the death of Argentina great, Diego Maradona, who died of cardiac arrest on Wednesday at the age of 60. Oliseh as Nigerian defensive midfielder at the 1994 FIFA World Cup was given the job of marking Maradona in what would turn out to be Maradona’s last game for his country, a 2-1 win over the Super Eagles at USA ’94.
Recalling how that game in Boston changed his career, the former Super Eagles coach said Maradona has what other players doesn’t have. “I was shocked when I heard of Maradona’s death,” he told BBCsports. “It is somehow painful in way I can’t really explain.
Growing up back in the 90s, when I had just arrived in Europe with Liege, I had a big poster of Diego Maradona on my wall from the 1986 World Cup. “He was kind of like the modern Pele at the time. So playing against him at USA ’94, we knew we had a herculean task ahead of us. “Playing against him, you could always notice that he had something that no other player I had ever seen in my lifetime had.
“The way he touched the ball – he didn’t really touch it, it was like he was massaging the ball. Trying to get the ball out of him was really difficult. “I personally had to apply some tricks.
I physically tried to surmount him – but that didn’t deter the man. He was solid, strong and technical. He seemed to have eyes in the back of his head. “After that game, I got so many accolades from the international press and back home. My former coaches confirmed to me that I was on the right path. “But what impressed me the most about playing against Diego was the influence he had on his teammates.
That spurred me further to work towards having that kind of influence in the Super Eagles of N i g e r i a and the other teams I played. “I aspired to be at the point where my teammates felt they were better with me, and without me they had problems. W h e n his teammates looked at Maradona, it was like they were looking at Moses about to take them to the Promised Land. “He had an influence on the world. He was a national hero. He is dead and the president has announced three days of mourning.
They don’t do that to past presidents of Argentina, but they are doing it for Diego. He modernised professional football. He was twice the most expensive player in the world, and there is a reason for that. It was because of him the transfer prices started to rocket. “He was a pioneer. You can see the way it has shaken the whole world. This is something that very few people in our lifetime can do.”