On the 8th of July 1990 Argentina unfortunately lost the Soccer World Cup finals by a questionable penalty that was awarded to Germany 0:1. For Diego Maradona it was one of the saddest days of his career. The referee of the match, the Mexican Codesal, told years later he could have sent off Maradona even before the game had started. During playing the national anthem Maradona had cursed loudly. The great Diego Maradona had been part of Argentina’s team four years earlier and won – also against Germany – the final 3:2. In the quarter finals Maradona had scored the perhaps most sensational goal in the history of soccer world championships against England. A few minutes earlier he had maneuvered the ball into the net with his hand and said after the game that “the hand of God” had been involved a little. This “Hand of God” became a well-known saying.
Just a few months prior to Argentina’s failure in the world championship finals the team visited Vienna. I wanted to see Maradona at all costs and took my seat in the “Praterstadion”, sector B on 3rd May 1990. 45000 people were not missing out on seeing see the game on site. So there I was seeing Maradona from above. And the exceptionality of the soccer genius relativized. From 1000 kilometers height even Maradona would be just a tiny spot on mother earth like the rest of us, I thought. His playing that evening was not overwhelming. It was a preparation game for Argentina, and no one wanted to run the risk of injury. The Argentinians acted rather sedately, and Maradona was far from scoring a goal. After only three minutes playtime Argentina conceded a goal. Manfred Zsak was the scorer. Before the half-time interval Argentina managed the equalizer scored by Burruchaga. The result did not change anymore. I had seen Maradona in the time-honored “Praterstadion” which had been completed on 11th May 1929. It had been a prestige project for “Red Vienna”. The Christian Social Party would have liked to prohibit the construction. The largest sports event ever held in Vienna was the Worker’s Olympiad which was held from 19th – 26th July 1931. The “Praterstadion” was ideally suited for this. The capacity was enormous and was enlarged to 90.000 seats between 1956 -1959.
Ernst Happel, the illustrious Austrian soccer player and trainer was patron for the name change of the “Praterstadion” to “Ernst-Happel-Stadion” which was finalized on 14th June 1993. Nowadays 50.000 people can watch a game. Having seen Maradona was not as big a deal for me after all as I had expected. Pity that the biggest victory of my favorite club, “Wiener Sportclub” vs. “Juventus” 7:0 took place before my time, on Oct. 1st, 1958. My father was present as a ten-year-old at this major sensation in the “Praterstadion".
© Jürgen Heimlich 2021-10-01