Sunday, June 22 marks 28 years since quite possibly the greatest goal in World Cup history, Maradona’s second one against England in the 1986 quarterfinals in Mexico’s Azteca Stadium. (His goal earlier that game on a hand ball, a strong contender for the most infamous, is widely known as the “Mano de Dios” [Hand of God], which was how Maradona said it was scored.) The drama of the moment transcended sport: it’s amazing, now, to realize that the brief but bloody Falklands War (Guerra de las Malvinas) had happened just four short years earlier, and particularly for Argentines the wounds were still fresh.
As brilliant as the play itself, in which the Argentine star started behind midfield and eluded a half-dozen English defenders on an electrifying drive capped by that unforgettable goal, was the call by Uruguayan announcer Víctor Hugo Morales. Indeed, Morales’s live narration of that goal deserves to be remembered for the ages as one of the most inspired improvisations ever recorded in the Spanish language.
Diego has the ball, Víctor Hugo the microphone, and your faithful servant the translation:
“The pass to Maradona, he’s got the ball, two defenders on him, he moves the ball, the genius of world soccer drives right, and he gets past the third defender, he could pass to Burruchaga… It’s still Maradona… Genius… genius… genius! Ta… ta… ta… ta… ta… ta… ta…! Goaaalll! Goaaalll!
“I want to cry! Holy God, long live soccer! Oh, what a goal! Diegoal! Maradona! I can’t help crying, forgive me. Maradona, in a memorable drive, in the greatest play of all time… Intergalactic kite, what planet did you come from, to leave so many Englishmen in the dust? To make the whole country into one great, clenched fist, shaking, shouting for Argentina? . . . Diegoal! Diegoal! Diego Armando Maradona! Sweet Lord, thank you for the game of football, for Maradona, for these tears, and for this Argentina 2, England 0.”
To transcribe this genial and spontaneous narration, to reduce it to words on a page or on a screen, can’t help but be somewhat arbitrary, can’t help but fall short; it’s almost impossible for the tamed, written words to capture the spark of the original. But even so, the wonderment comes through vividly. Morales’s call has it all: rhythm and passion, the inspired “intergalactic kite” image, the pulse provided by that string of very Uruguayan “ta’s,” symmetry, and the resolution offered by the harmonious sequence of thanks at the end, the voice descending from the emotional heights back to earth.
In little more than a hundred words, and even in those moments when he lost track of the specifics of the play, Víctor Hugo Morales managed to transmit the stupendous nature of what was unfolding before him, to convey his own astonishment, shared by millions of people. In those words, along with all the non-verbals that can’t be ignored (tone and volume, hoarseness, crying, tempo), he gave voice to what the fans were feeling, to an entire country, and more.
The result was memorable and moving: another brilliant goal (golazo).
A version of this essay was originally written for publication in the June 22, 2014 edition of La Prensa Latina (Memphis, Tennessee) as part of the weekly bilingual column on language and culture, “Misterios y Enigmas de la Traducción/Mysteries & Enigmas of Translation”.
Copyright ©2014 by Pablo J. Davis. All rights reserved. Se reservan todos los derechos.