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Floriana coach Potenza opens up on his memories of Maradona at Napoli Calcio

Disappointed MFA failed to honour the Argentine great during last week’s Premier League programme

It has been a week now since he world of football has lost Argentine great Diego Maradona who passed suddenly at the age of 60.

Tributes have been pouring for the former Napoli maestro who caught the imagination of many football fans with his unique passing, vision, ball control and dribbling skills that led the Partenopei to two Serie A titles.

Vincenzo Potenza, the Floriana coach, was fortunate enough to be part of the Napoli team at the time Maradona joined the club. In fact, Potenza was in the Partenopei’s youth teams between 1984 and 1988 and he also had the opportunity to be involved in training matches against Maradona’s senior team.

“Diego Maradona has given us a memorable childhood,” Potenza said.

“During that time, the team was battling against relegation but still Maradona managed to attract to the stadium between 75,000 to 80,000 fans. Maradona was always professional, and his presence helped the club build a team over two years that would go on and win an historic Serie A title.

“As young Napoli player I had the fortune of watching him both train and play for the club in the Serie A closely as we used to be ball boys at the Stadio San Paolo. He used to dribble players with great speed and watching him play so closely was fantastic.

Floriana coach Vincenzo Potenza. Photo: FFF Media

“It’s no surprise that each time I watch some footage of him of those years I get emotional.”

Potenza described Maradona as a worldwide icon and he was surprised that the Malta Football Association did not hold a minute silence for the Argentine great during last week’s BOV Premier League matches.

“Diego Maradona was an iconic figure worldwide,” Potenza said.

“Even countries like Syria, where they are ravaged by a civil war, they had murals of Diego Maradona given his great popularity. Every time we travek around the world and we tell people that we are from Naples the first thing they tell us that it was the city of Diego Maradona.

“So, for me it was baffling to see that here in Malta the MFA didn’t pay homage to such a great player. It was really a pity.”

Potenza said that Maradona could not have a private life in Naples, as he would be mobbed by people everywhere, he went and that pushed him towards self-destruction.

“Unfortunately, many people spoke about the dark side of Maradona, but Diego was a private person but could not live a normal life,” the Floriana coach said.

“He couldn’t go anywhere as he would be mobbed by hundreds of fans, so he was forced to go out and see Naples’ most beautiful sights late at night. And during that time, you don’t meet the most exemplary people who in the end pushed him towards self-destruction.

“Personally, I think that the main culprits of Maradona’s downfall were his entourage who didn’t protect him from people who caused so much damage to his life.”

 Potenza said that Maradona was a person with a heart of gold.

“Maradona helped a lot people who were in need,” Potenza said.

“I remember once that there was a youngster who had a problem with his finger and had to undergo an operation that cost a lot of money. His family could not afford the operation but he organized a match to collect funds for him and today he is living a normal life.

“That is one of hundreds of stories that showed Maradona’s heart of gold.

“Maradona is irreplaceable for us people of Naples. He was a neopolitan through and through and throughout his career he could have easily earned more money by joining Juventus and Milan.

“But he loved the city and the people and he will remain the city’s icon for hundreds of years to come.”

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