It started with a tweet two years ago…
…and continued with another…
— Damian Lewis (@lewis_damian) November 29, 2020
…inspiring me to bring a few of my favorite things together: Damian Lewis, Football, and Diego Maradona.
Damian and I were kids at the same time in different countries with different cultures… But when it comes to football… in particular, if you live in a country where football is LIFE, say, in England where Damian grew up, or in Turkey where I grew up, the football fans speak the same language!
My dad was a football fanatic. He did not only follow the Turkish league very closely, but also the European leagues and championships. And, in late 1970s, there was one football clubs that had constant presence in our living room: Liverpool. The club had a legendary manager, Bob Paisley, who led Liverpool through a period of unprecedented domestic and European dominance, winning twenty major honors in nine seasons: six League Championships, three League Cups, six Charity Shields, three European Cups, one UEFA Cup and one UEFA Super Cup. They won EVERYTHING.
My dad supported Liverpool, and easily recruited me as a fan. We cheered for the team together and that is why Liverpool is always a warm reminder of my childhood. As I grew up, I found out about other things about Liverpool, the city, that made me love it even more: Liverpool is a working class city which is close to my politics, and it gave the Beatles to the world, which is close to my heart. So I have always had a soft spot for its football team.
So has Damian since he was seven…
…and I so loved it when he put a guy, who was saying Damian has recently become a Liverpool fan, in his place on Twitter!!!
don't reply to Twitter feeds but feel a need to reply to this. Been a fan since I was 7 you numpty.
— Damian Lewis (@lewis_damian) June 4, 2019
Well… If you were a young kid in 1970s seeing this fantastic football team sweeping all championships and cups in Britain as well as across Europe year after year after year, why would you go and support another? THAT’S WHY, and I had this confirmed with Damian, both he and I, and many other children of our generation became fans!
High fiving Damian and telling him “Damian, You’ll Never Walk Alone!” in New York two years ago after Liverpool won the European Champions League Title was as cool as it could get and the closest I got to my childhood in decades – especially the football Sundays that I sat on my dad’s shoulders to watch the match of the day!
Damian regularly plays football: He plays for Anvil FC, an amateur football team in King’s Cross when he’s in London, and he always seems to find guys to play with when he is shooting Billions in New York. He has also taken part in several charity football matches including the celebrated Soccer Aid.
Damian shares in an interview with The Evening Standard that he sees the sport as a form of therapy:
“I enjoy the total absorption in a white ball and 10 other guys and the focus, and the way it releases everything else from your mind. It’s brilliant, it’s the best occupational therapy I can think of. You run around and get fit and it releases any anger or tension that you have. I used to play at 7.30 on Thursday mornings in New York. I’d haul myself out of bed, even if I’d had a night shoot that finished at 2am and go and play. I love it.”
I cannot agree with him more – I feel exactly the same about running and swimming, particularly the “it releases any anger or tension you have” part.
And When asked about what he is watching on TV at Times Talks London; Damian first gives us the usual suspects, including Breaking Bad, Mad Men and Game of Thrones; then adds that on top of his recording list is ALWAYS Match of the Day. And many thanks go to Bookworm for reminding me of a Homeland Fun Fact about Match of the Day! Well, remember the scene in Homeland Pilot where Carrie notices Brody’s almost jazz like finger tapping…
…it turns out Damian is finger tapping to Match of the Day tune there. You can hear the story from the man himself on the Commentary for the Pilot on Homeland Season 1 DVD and even hear Damian humming the tune for Claire 😀
Now… while football fans around the world follow different National leagues and international tournaments throughout the year, there is one football event that happens only every four years which every football fan looks forward to: The World Cup.
And this is how I believe both Damian and I “met” the great Diego Maradona when we were kids.
The first World Cup that I followed very closely and watched every single match was World Cup 1982 that took place in Spain. But the one in which Diego Maradona shone more than anyone and scored is the World Cup 1986 in Mexico. Maradona scored five goals and provided five assists for Argentina and ultimately led his team to the World Cup Championship. I do not think any football player has dominated the World Cup or any other Cup for that matter the way Maradona, the captain of Argentina football team, did in 1986. And both goals he scored in the quarterfinal match against England (I am sure Damian was also watching!) are historical for different reasons.
The first one which is nicknamed “The Hand of God” is a goal that Maradona actually scored with his hand – which means it is not a goal but the referee did not see it and conceded the goal But the next goal which Maradona scored only minutes after “The Hand of God” attests to his unmatched talent as a footballer and is probably the most beautiful goal ever scored in any match.
Maradona was unique. He was short but then he was strong and unstoppable. A true wizard on the football field. And since Pele was before my time, I can confidently say I have never seen a better footballer than Diego Maradona.
Maradona set the world record transfer fee twice: when he transferred to Barcelona in 1982 and then when he transferred to Napoli in 1984. And it was at Napoli he enjoyed his greatest success. Maradona came, saw and conquered: He led Napoli to two Serie A titles – first and second in the club’s history! Napoli also won a UEFA Cup victory that put the city of Naples called “sewer of Italy” at the time on the football map and gave Maradona a living legend status in the city which has not diminished over the years. When we were in Naples only two summers ago, they sold Maradona souvenirs all over the city and we visited the Maradona shrine in Bar Nilo – they allow you to take a picture only if you order an espresso! 🙂 The centerpiece is a few strands of hair which supposedly belongs to the great man himself.
If you are a Maradona fan or would like to get to know him better, I highly recommend Asif Capadia’s brilliant HBO documentary Diego Maradona that tells the story of a football superstar who happens to be a flawed human. You can see the trailer here:
Now… while I do not know how big of a Maradona fan Damian was growing up, I know that our favorite guy was called Damian “Diego” Lewis” when he played football at Eton College! 😀
When Damian appeared on the BBC’s The One Show along with Lee Mack to talk about Soccer Aid in 2018, Alex Jones and Matt Baker, the presenters of the show, surprised him with a 1986 copy of Eton College Chronicle talking about our guy’s talent in football!
😀 😀 😀
“There you go! And he became an actor. Who could have guessed it?”
And who knew at the time that both Diego Maradona and Damian “Diego” Lewis would play in Soccer Aid 2006, a biennial British charity football match with two teams of celebrities and former professional players, representing England and the Rest of the World(RoW)?
When asked about Soccer Aid, Damian calls the whole experience “the most ridiculous Boy’s Own Fantasy week you could hope for” in an interview:
“We trained together for a week then played at Old Trafford in front of 72,000 people. It was the most ridiculous Boy’s Own fantasy week you could hope for.
I have been on the pitch with Maradona, Zola, Zidane, Henrik Larsson and Ryan Giggs. I’ve played in central midfield with Jamie Redknapp and had Alan Shearer and Teddy Sheringham just ahead of me. It was just so amazing.”
Damian was a part of the England Squad in the first ever Soccer Aid match in 2006. The match took place on May 27 2006 at Old Trafford in front of 70K+ people. And, I mean, being on the football field, playing midfield opposite Diego Maradona… No wonder Damian says it was an unbelievable day!
While Maradona scores a penalty goal for The Rest of the World in the match, it is Team England is holding the cup in the end. Hey, who is that HAPPY boy on the very left side?
What do Damian Lewis and Diego Maradona have in common? Not much other than their love of the game called football. But both of them touched my life in their own special ways. Exactly like Nicholas Brody is the reason I became a Damian Lewis fan for life (and a blogger, too!) Diego Maradona is the reason I became an Argentinian National Football Team fan for life.
When I caught up with Damian after his fantastic gig at The Tabernacle London on November 20 (the day World Cup 2022 kicked off in Qatar) I told him that because Turkey never qualified for the World Cup when I was growing up, I was a free agent and chose Argentina as my team back in 1982. Only two words: Diego Maradona. And we inevitably talked about “the Hand of God” that led to a hilarious moment…
I am grateful to my dear Tsvetanka for immortalizing this with her phone as I gave Damian one of our Xmas gifts – colorful socks with musical notes and guitars on them that Gingersnap chose for our Ginger Elvis.
Me: “La Mano de Dios…”
Damian: “El Mano. Not la Mano.”
Me: “No. It’s la Mano.”
We both look at Noe – the native Spanish speaker!
Noe: “La Mano…” Unchanged: Noe: “La Mano…”
Me: “My Spanish beats your Spanish!”
Damian: “Oooooh. It’s an irregular word. Okay. I love my guitar socks… thank you.”
And now that my beloved Argentina made it to the World Cup Final…