Split [Croatia], November 27 (ANI): Indian football team head coach Igor Stimac recalled his encounter with Argentina legend Diego Maradona and said one could barely knock the World Cup-winning footballer down while he was running with the ball in a match.
Maradona passed away on Wednesday at the age of 60. The former Croatia defender, after the legendary footballer's untimely demise, shared his emotions and recalled how in a friendly match played in Croatia, Maradona was all over the field and it was impossible for Stimac to stop the legend.
"His balance and acceleration were things that every defender was scared of. You could barely knock him down while he was running with the ball. His no-look passes were intimidating," AIFF quoted Stimac as saying.
Stimac played against Maradona on two occasions. First in the 1992-93 La Liga season, when the latter represented Sevilla while Stimac was donning the Cadiz CF shirt.
The second occasion was before the FIFA World Cup 1994 when Argentina played an international friendly against Croatia.
"We played a friendly match in Zagreb, Croatia before they would travel to the USA to participate in the 1994 FIFA World Cup. Very often, he was dropping deep to receive the ball, and his long deliveries to (Gabriel) Batistuta and (Caludio) Caniggia were absolutely perfect," the Indian head coach said.
"He was everywhere on the pitch. Sometimes, he was running past the defender through the right-flank. Next, he was seen playing a quick one-two with the forwards to work an attacking move. It was a menacing task to contain with the deadly attackers, obviously led by none but Diego and as a central defender, it was a real test for me," Stimac added.
Maradona captained Argentina to victory at the 1986 FIFA World Cup and was widely regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all time.
Stimac said that the passion Maradona showed for football even after his playing days was unbelievable. The Indian head coach recalled another incident where he saw Maradona jump like a kid after Argentina defeated Croatia in the 2016 Davis Cup final.
"At the 2016 Davis Cup final in Zagreb, he had travelled all the way to cheer for Argentina when they faced off with Croatia. The amount of passion he showed when the likes of Del Potro and Delbonis were breaking sweat on the court was unbelievable," Stimac said.
"Finally, Argentina beat Croatia to lift the trophy and you won't believe, he was jumping like a kid in the VVIP Box. Little did I know that it was going to be our last meeting," he added.
Maradona had begun his professional career with Argentinos Juniors at the age of 16 and he went on to become one of the greatest players to ever play the game of football.
He represented Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Napoli, Sevilla, and Newell's Old Boys as a player. Diego was considered the main player in taking Argentina to their second World Cup title in 1986. (ANI)