~ Claudia, Claudia ~

(1994, Maradona sent off. Ephedrine in urine.)

- If I stop loving you I won’t play anymore. Do you understand this? No one can play against hatred and despair and conspiracy. Any work of creation is pure love. Oh, Claudia.

- Wherever I am (pauses, rearranges the flowers in the vase, their daughters’ photographs in the album, quickened breathing), believe me, it’s your face that always keeps me normal and healthy.

- Shut up. You are a fraud, a thug, a hypocrite, a liar.

Claudia flings the vase against the wall. The flowers are being blown away in the sea breeze.

- Why must you say all this Claudia? Do you love my tears too? I knew I was the favourite of the world. Only with you can I wipe my tears. Are you going to take that away too? Does everyone need to see me broken?

- You’re no footballer. Pele is far greater than you. It is his face that comes to mind when I think of great men. And yours when I think of evil men. You lied, this is your punishment. You said you wouldn’t take drugs again, but you have, what will I tell my daughters? Their father has been banned for doping. People will point at them, see that girl, Dalma, she’s a lying drug addict’s daughter. What fun!

- You won’t understand, Claudia. I didn’t think you’d leave me this way.

- I didn’t think I’d fall into the clutches of an operator. My life was much more beautiful, it was different. It was supposed to have become even more beautiful. Tchah!

- I know everyone is greater than me, Claudia. Puskas, Garrincha, Careca, Matthaus, Baggio. And Pele, of course. I’m a third-rate footballer. Who scores with his hand. One of whose feet is wooden. Who dopes, who fires guns at journalists. I know all this, why shouldn’t I? I’m not on good terms with anyone. I’m a very badly-behaved man. I cannot size people up, I don’t know whom to be respectful with. But it isn’t a lie that I love you.

- Liar! You’ve been with countless women, you’ve been a cocaine-dealer despite warnings, you’ve taken all sorts of drugs yourself. Is there anything about you that is good! (Fair face contorted with loathing and contempt.)

- There’s only one thing about me that’s good. My tears. Look, I’m crying now. Maradona your Maradona is crying. For you. Think about how much I love my daughters. Would I have played this time if it hadn’t been for their request? It hurts so much.

- You played because of your ego, your pride, your arrogance about proving yourself. But what did you achieve? How will your daughters appear in public? That word love does not suit you. It’s hurting me no less. All these years, and nothing but drugs, a joke, a circus, a buffoon. You stayed away from me. Go away, don’t touch me, you horse-faced clown. Why has Cristiana Sinagra sued you, you’re the father of her son. The court has ruled you must pay three thousand two hundred dollars a month.

- Please! Please! There’s nothing but love, Claudia. When I play I play with love. People are instigating you against me, so that my art dries up. So that after my world my home collapses too. Only then will my art die in misery and suffering. Think about it, I enter the field with love, the simple world of grass, I have no history of fouls to speak of. It’s me whom others have kicked again and again in my arms my legs my hips my thighs. As often as they could. Today you’re calling me a failure, a hypocrite. You can. Can drugs bring goals? Can drugs bring art, Claudia? Will my daughters not grow up one day and realise their father was not a liar? That this is a conspiracy, to prove that I’m a failure, to have me thrown out? This was their weapon to humiliate me before millions of people. They want to take you away too. Their ultimate weapon is to create a distance between you and me. They will destroy all I have.

- Shut up! I know everything about you. Why? Why did you take ephedrine? You must have thought you’d escape this time too. And yet you told us again and again, it happened once, it was a mistake, never again, never again. You’re a fraud, a liar...

(Claudia rips up Maradona’s T-shirt.)

- See for yourself whether it’s a lie or not. (Dry, red eyes, cornered tigress.)

Maradona is a helpless child. His tears are real. A star is being destroyed. It’s about to crash on the whirling planet. This is the harbour of illusion where ships don’t stop.

Maradona belongs to an unhappy life. He is Michelangelo’s Leonardo. The passion of the modern world. The last star over a dusty, disappearing earth. He believes in love, not hatred. The footballer in him awakes to ardour. But it will not awake again, never again, it will not be allowed, the guardians of the world will send him into exile.

- I broadcast love with my foot. My left foot is love. It is the child of love.

A long pause. Dreams, stillness. Shattered Andes. The cry of seagulls. The wind – food – their feathers flying. His eyes surveying constantly, helplessly, a loser.

- I’ve floated a dream football up in the air, Claudia. A happy Argentina amongst the sorrowful masses. Have you never felt, here is a stubborn man, fighting, arousing millions of people, overwhelming them?

Dried petals by the windowpane. Some of them missing. Plants drooping with despair. Flowers will not bloom in his dream again. For the last time, thousands of them have fallen to the ground. Bare now. Maradona lifting the lid of the coffin, holding it to his chest, sinking. He’s going, into stillness, into the night, into an unending lament. The lid of the coffin, yes, Claudia, Clau...

An excerpt from Maradona, Kamal Chakraborty, published by Prachi Protichi, translated from the Bengali by Arunava Sinha.