Doha, Qatar – For George Matus, a 55-year-old Argentina fan from Buenos Aires, Diego Maradona is a god who now sits in the heavens above, and Lionel Messi is his messiah on the football pitch.
It has been 36 years since Argentina last won the football World Cup, but the magic of 1986 lives on in the memories of Matus and his compatriots.
“When I think about that day in Mexico City, I get goosebumps, and my heart starts beating in my mouth,” Matus told Al Jazeera from the Argentine fan village in Qatar.
As Argentina take on France in the final on Sunday, two years on from Maradona’s death, fans expect their icon to be the guiding light from up above.
“When Maradona scored against England in the quarterfinal in 1986, he called it the hand of God, and now, he is the hand of God guiding Argentina all the way to glory,” Sebas, a Germany-based Argentina fan said while referring to Maradona’s famous first goal in the match against England.
That game was played four years after the Falklands War between Argentina and Britain. Maradona’s second goal in that match is widely considered one of the greatest ever: He took possession of the ball in Argentina’s half, then dribbled past a series of England players and their goalkeeper to score, leaving opposition players on their knees or with hands on hips.