Cork ref recalls being on the end of the 'odd rant' from Maradona

Cork ref recalls being on the end of the 'odd rant' from Maradona

Argentina ace Diego Maradona shaking hands with Cork soccer referee, Pat Kelly, ahead of the friendly game against Switzerland on May 8, 1990.

As the world mourns the loss of one of the greatest soccer players to grace the game, Cork man, Pat Kelly has recalled the day he was given the responsibility of keeping the maestro in line on the field.

Pat, who was an international referee at the time, was the head official for a friendly between Switzerland and Argentina on May 8, 1990.

“It was the last friendly match prior to the World Cup and Diego Maradona played that day,” Pat said.

Known in Argentina as 'El Dios' — The God — Maradona was often noted as being a wildcard, both on and off the pitch.

However, Pat remembered the player fondly, saying he had little trouble out of the Argentine captain. 

“He was grand — he was smaller than me anyway,” the former referee said, referring to his own stature.

“There were no issues with him. There was very little in the match to complain about. He threw the odd rant alright, like all players. But luckily enough I didn't understand him. He was speaking in Spanish. He did make a few gestures and that but that's it really,” Pat said.

Known for his amazing technique, Maradona scored the 'goal of the century' against England in 1986, the same game in which he scored the infamous 'hand of God' goal which earned him distinction and disdain in equal measure.

“He was something else,” Pat said. “I’ve seen them all — Ronaldo, Messi, Roy Keane, the lot. But Maradona has to be the best. Very skilful.” 

The Blackrock man, although admittedly a fan, stayed true to his standards, and kept everything above board and professional. 

“I never asked anyone for an autograph. No matter how famous they were. I got the match ball after that match and got someone else to go and get the signature off him. I would never go and get it myself,” Pat said.

The match went on to finish in a 1-1 stalemate, and Argentina would go all the way to final of the following World Cup, before losing to West Germany.

However, Pat was not the only Munster man to share the pitch with 'El Dios'. Before Pat Kelly, there was a Pat Nolan, a Limerick full-back who had the joy of marking a 19-year-old Maradona in 1980.

Pat Nolan was part of a League of Ireland 11 who were chosen to take on the 1978 World Cup winners. He recalled the game in an interview with Limerick’s Live95.

“We didn’t know a lot about him at that stage,” the former right-back said. 

“He had tremendous strength and a low centre of gravity. Even at that stage, you could tell he was exceptional,” Mr Kelly said.

Argentina is honouring Maradona with three days of mourning after he passed away on Wednesday from a heart attack.

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