I was a bit disappointed in the BBC's Football Focus item on the club. Carlisle castle, Hadrians Wall, the crap weather (which was just as crap in London by he way) all given a mention - as ever. Still at least they didn’t show any sheep, and that’s got to be a first! Perhaps Andy Preece may never have a musical written about him - but I think I'd rather see that than the one which has just made it's stage debut.
Graphic scenes filled with drugs, sweat and tears marked the premiere last week of a stage musical chronicling the turbulent rise and fall of Argentine soccer mega-star Diego Maradona. A warts-and-all portrayal ranging from his impoverished youth in a shantytown to his celebrated goals in Argentina's 1986 World Cup victory over England, the show entitled "Number Ten: Between Heaven and Hell" played to a full house in downtown Buenos Aires.
Audience members said they were shocked by the frank treatment of Maradona's dark side. The mixture of fact and fiction depicted orgies, violent scuffles with paparazzi, and clashes with everyone from Britain's Prince Charles to a corrupt Argentine president. The retired 43-year-old star, who has mostly resided in Cuba for the last four years recovering from drug abuse, was not present for opening night. Producers said he had given the project his approval and was getting a cut of the profits.
Within the first 10 minutes, the show dealt with its touchiest topic: a fictional young Maradona, looking shifty and overwhelmed at a cocktail party in Paris, is approached by a beautiful woman who opens up a small, silver carrying case. "Want to try some?" she slurs, thrusting the box at him. "Try some what?" Maradona asks innocently. In another scene, Maradona kneels in a starry field and weeps as he asks God: "What good is it to be the best soccer player in the world if you're not happy?". Some present said the show made Maradona look too much like a helpless victim exploited by greedy soccer club owners and politicians. "They turned this into a fairy tale," said one reporter who followed the real Maradona for several years."Diego would never say some of those things. They invented everything so he would look like an angel." Still, much of the cosmopolitan crowd seemed won over by a self-described "tragic comedy" that also included an appearance by Che Guevara's ghost and a tear-jerking, baritone ballad sung by Maradona as he seduces his future wife.
Incredibly producers said an English production company was negotiating for rights to stage it in Western Europe, and hoped its main themes would be universal. They are also "fairly confident" that the show will appear in London's West End. After the recent admission by the chairman of Naples, concerning Maradona's time as a player in Italy, I don't think I'll be shellling out West End prices to see it. Apparently, before eventually being found out the charming chap had been a regular user (ie he took it all the time) of cocaine for over 18 months. But Maradona was able to pass any drug test when selected to take one by having a realistic but false replica made of a certain part of his body. This would be filled with "samples" by somone else for testing and the little fella was somehow able to smuggle the replica into the testing area and use it to provide a sample to pass the said test. Napoli don't come out of the situation too well either as reports say "several" high ranking club officials knew exactly what was going on and turned a blind eye. In the end Maradona got a bit too careless and no doubt thought himself to be above the laws of the game. That ,of course, eventually led to his downfall. Wonder if they have included that part of his life in the play!
Nearer to home there are also plans in the pipeline, though neither are confirmed as yet, to make movies featuring the lives of Paul Gascoigne and snooker's Alex Higgins. Don't mean to sound cynical but hard to imagine a happy ending if these films are produced. Perhaps they should make one about Mr Preece after all. And you know he's a really smashing bloke too - off the pitch. Wouldn’t fancy marking him like!