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Maradona mania grips Scotland

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Maradona arrives in Glasgow

By David McDaid

There's blood on the Glasgow pavement and my good shoes are ruined.

You'd be forgiven for thinking this was a boozy Saturday night out - but this was just a Sunday morning's work.

No ordinary Sunday, it must be said, because at 1104 GMT Diego Armando Maradona arrived in Scotland - and Glasgow Airport went wild.

I'd been to the airport before to try to grab a word with football teams arriving.

I was almost run over by John Carew's luggage trolley just last month when Norway came for their World Cup qualifier.

But nothing had prepared me for this.

"Sharpen your elbows," I was told, "It's going to be chaos."

And indeed it was.

A special walkway was cordoned off, extra police were in attendance, as well as all the press officers the Scottish Football Association could muster.

More than 100 journalists, cameramen and fans - Scottish, English and Argentine - staked out the best place to yell a question, get a shot, or beg an autograph.

Every man, woman and child, watched the Arrivals board nervously.

I got a spot towards the front of the line, all the while thinking, "What if he doesn't stop here?" "Would I be better over there?" "have I pressed record on my microphone?" and "I can't mess this up!"

MY SPORT: DEBATE

I ran over the Spanish in my head.

And then, the Arrivals hall doors opened... and Maradona appeared.

As my journalistic professionalism evaporated, I froze in amazement, got a grip, checked my microphone, thought of my questions, and checked my microphone again, all within the space of a single second.

With his well-documented problems with drugs and his weight firmly behind him, he looked remarkably healthy.

Then, as Maradona walked past, I seized my moment: "Senor Maradona, una pregunta en Castellano por favor!" ("Mr Maradona, a question in Spanish please!")

But he didn't stop. My chance was fast disappearing.

I'm not the pushiest, brashest hack in the press pack, but in desperation I yelled: "Como se siente estar aqui en Escocia," ("How does it feel to be in Scotland?")

Without breaking his stride, Maradona looked over his right shoulder: "Muy contento." ("Very happy.")

Arguably the greatest footballer the world has ever known. And he spoke to me. Even though it was only two words.

Diego Maradona
Maradona scored his first ever international goal at Hampden in 1979

For a split-second I thought I could hang up my mic, since any other sporting personality would surely pale into insignificance.

But with the adrenalin doing its job I wanted more.

With my cameraman in tow I ran ahead of the great man.

This wasn't too difficult as the once sprightly midfielder, who danced round five England players on his way to scoring the goal voted by Fifa as the greatest goal in the history of the World Cup in 1986, is now hampered by a noticeable limp.

That, and the fact he was mobbed by the ravenous journalists.

With my face pressed into some photographer's back, I held my mic above the crowd.

I couldn't see Maradona as he edged towards the team bus, with the police ushering the media horde backwards.

That's when my shoes were stomped out of shape, and someone must have caught a camera lens in the mouth.

More questions, more questions, I thought.

"How do you feel to be returning to where you scored your first goal for Argentina? Do you have a word for the Scottish public?"

Nothing. I tried again, with a bit more resignation.

"Show us the hand of God! Do you fear the threat of James McFadden?"

Other than assistant coach Terry Butcher, I wonder if he can name any member of the Scotland party for Wednesday night's friendly at Hampden Park.

It was worth a try, but the new Argentina coach wasn't feeling very chatty.

He signed a few autographs before climbing aboard his bus, and as he sat back in his seat he puffed his cheeks and I read his lips in Spanish: "What a commotion!"

He was visibly taken aback by the welcoming committee.

One man, Kevin Schreiner, managed to get his shirt signed by his idol.

His voice quivered with emotion: "I don't have words to explain. I have my whole family here. It's really incredible.

"To me and to all Argentines he is a God for us. Not just the Hand of God.

"Now as our coach hopefully, with his experience, we can get there starting on Wednesday."

It was only when the coach moved off, we realised there were some of the present day superstars on board too.

Gabriel Heinze and Fernando Gago have probably not felt so invisible for a long, long time.

As the crowd cleared and we counted our bruises, I got on the phone to a couple of friends: "Guess who I've been speaking to?"

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see also
Maradona plays down quit threat
14 Nov 08 |  Internationals
Maradona meets players in England
07 Nov 08 |  Internationals
Maradona in Manchester
07 Nov 08 |  Internationals
Argentina stars set for Glasgow
05 Nov 08 |  Internationals
The Maradona Diaries
04 Nov 08 |  Football


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