Legend Paul ‘Gazza’ Gascoigne has shared his incredible tale of meeting the iconic Diego Maradona. The two legends, though never rivals on the pitch, found themselves in funny encounters off the field. In this story, Gazza recalls these amusing moments that unfolded with the Argentine maestro.
A Chance Encounter
Gazza appeared on Good Morning Britain to tell us his memories of the Argentine genius Diego Maradona after the legend had just passed away. He recalled a chance encounter that began with a simple request for a lighter.
“At a charity game, I remember I wanted a lighter, and I’d seen a little fella outside with a hat on and a big long cigar,” Gazza chuckled as he recounted. “I just went up from behind him and said: ‘Can I borrow your lighter please?’ And he turned round, it was Diego – so I started laughing. I shared a bit of cigar with him, and we clicked then, you know?”
An unlikely friendship bloomed. The two even played together in a charity game. But their first meeting on the pitch came in a more competitive setting.
While Gazza missed the chance to face off against Maradona in Serie A due to timing, their paths crossed in a friendly match. Gazza, in his Lazio days, squared off against Maradona, who was playing for the Spanish side Sevilla.
“So I went out and beat about four players, scored a goal – and I looked at him and said: ‘Beat that,'” Gazza recounted. He had spoken in Italian, as neither he nor Maradona were proficient in English. But Gazza’s challenge had an unintended consequence. “But I think I said the wrong thing! Because after that he was unbelievable, magic. What a player.”
Gazza hailed Maradona’s status as a football icon. “My icon is Bryan Robson – but around the world, Diego was just a phenomenal footballer.”
Gazza Held No Grudges Against Maradona
It’s clear that Gazza harbours no ill feelings towards Maradona, despite the Argentine maestro’s controversial ‘Hand of God’ goal that saw England bow out of the 1986 World Cup. Peter Shilton, England’s goalkeeper at the time, was also present during Gazza’s interview on Good Morning Britain. Gazza couldn’t resist a playful jab at his former teammate, saying, “I know a lot of people go on about the hand of God. It made Peter Shilton anyway! Shilts, it made you that goal.”
Shilton responded with a smile, “Thanks for that, Gazza. I did play for another 20 years on after that…”
Gazza shared another side of his encounter with Maradona – one that obviously involved alcohol. Recounting that friendly match between Lazio and Sevilla, Gazza confessed, “On the flight, I had a couple of drinks. Got in the tunnel and said: ‘Diego, I’m tipsy.’ He said: ‘It’s ok, Gazza, so am I.'”
He also offered a glimpse into the personal side of Maradona, sharing, “I watched his documentary not long ago, and he was still fanatical in the dressing room as a manager. I sat there with, him, his wife, and his family for three hours, and we just had a laugh. Such a nice guy as well would give his time up for anybody.”
Diego Maradona may be gone, but his legend lives on through stories like these.