Washington

Andres Cantor: 'We all lived through Diego Maradona's magic'

Washington
June 12, 2010; Johannesburg, SOUTH AFRICA; Argentina head coach Diego Maradona before group B play against Nigeria at Ellis Park Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Valeria Witters/Witters Sport via USA TODAY Sports
© Witters Sport-USA TODAY Sports

The world lost one of the great soccer players of all time on Wednesday when Diego Maradona died at age 60 due to cardiac arrest, his longtime lawyer and agent confirmed.

Defined by his magical 1986 World Cup title run with Argentina and an illustrious career with Napoli on the pitch, and substance abuse and partying off it, Maradona will be forever remembered for his impact on Argentina and the sports world. 

"It’s a very sad day for the world of football. It’s a very sad day for all Argentinians in the world," said legendary Argentinian-American commentator Andres Cantor, who's known for his long "Goaaaaal!" calls and covered much of Maradona's career. "We all lived through Diego’s magic. He was a super hero to all Argentinians. We felt like he would never die and he passed away today.”

With the permission from NBC and Telemundo, Cantor joined his son, Nico, and the CBS Sports Network studio crew broadcasting the UEFA Champions League matches to discuss the full, yet complicated life of Maradona. As Nico Cantor expressed what the iconic soccer figure meant to Argentina, Andres was visibly emotional on screen. He was the one who introduced his son to Maradona while working as a print journalist in the past. 

To fully understand the significance Maradona had on the soccer world, it's necessary to look back at his achievements in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. As the captain, Maradona scored five goals and provided another five assists to help his country lift its second World Cup. Two goals in particular etched his name in the history books for good. 

 

The first came in the 51st minute and was almost immediately dubbed the "Hand of God" goal, in which he rose his fist above his head and punched the ball over the oncoming English goalkeeper. With no instant replay, the goal stood. Less than five minutes later, though, there was no doubt about his second. 

Weaving his way through the English defense, Maradona scored one the best goals of all time as he put the Argentine team on his back and slotted the ball home with characteristic poise. 

It's that moment that sealed Maradona as one of the best to ever lace up the boots, and the Cantors eloquently reflected that. Not even the genius of Maradona's younger countryman, Lionel Messi, can match it. 

“So before there was a Messi, I lived Diego Armando Maradona through the passion of my dad and what he experienced as an Argentine," Nico Cantor said. "It’s almost as if I saw Maradona play through the passion of my dad and everything he has built, his legacy. Maradona was – is – a part of our life, of our culture. This New Year’s when we sing "The Hand of God" – "Los Manos de Dios by Rodrigo"It’s going to be a more special song on New Year’s with our family.” 

Though Maradona surely had his struggles off the pitch during the tail end of his career and during retirement, the way he uplifted the spirits of an entire nation will never be forgotten. During a time where Argentina was dealing with a corrupt government, Maradona served as an outlet of inspiration for all. But his struggles with fame led to poor decisions as Diego tried to reconcile Maradona. 

"I will quote Fernando Signorini, who was his personal and physical trainer throughout his life," Andres Cantor said. "He said about Diego, 'I would go to war without a gun with the Diego that I know. I wouldn’t go to the corner store with the Maradona that I know,'" Cantor said.  

Cantor described Maradona as a humble man different than the one the public saw for much of life, "consumed the character of being the most famous person on the planet."

 

In Argentina, even Messi, a six-time Balòn d'Or winner as European club player of the year, isn't as highly regarded. Who could be?  

Before CBS Sports Network host Kate Abdo thanked Cantor for his insights, the longtime Telemundo play-by-play had some final words on why Maradona was so special. 

“He was a superhero to all. As probably all of you know, he almost died twice and survived," Cantor said. "I want to mention this because (millennials) and people watching on their phones today do not know that Diego Maradona played in an era that was very different than today in the world of football. It was a much more physical time when he played. He was butchered every single game with Napoli, with Barcelona, with the Argentinian team shirt. He was the most extraordinary footballer I have seen in my life and I have no doubt that I will die saying he was the greatest of all time."