Maradona’s version of the horrific foul by Athletic Bilbao’s Goikoetxea that broke his leg when he was playing for Barcelona in 1983 (from Yo soy el Diego (de la gente)):
It was the 24th of September 1983. That morning something unbelievable happened. I went to hospital to see this kid who had been knocked down by a car. His legs were in bits, the poor little thing! When he saw me his face lit up; I said hello, I kissed him on the cheek and I was about to go as I had to play a match that night. I was already at the door when, from the bed, he pulled himself up and shouted: “Diego, look after yourself, please, ‘cause they’re after you now!” That’s what he told me: Now they’re coming after you.
When the Basque Goikoetxea broke my leg, we were beating Athletic 3-0! I saw the video two days later. I was in bed in the hospital in Barcelona and I managed to say “Goikoetxea knew what he was doing”. I didn’t see him coming. If I had, I would’ve dodged him as I had so many other times before. But I felt the blow, I heard the snap, like a piece of wood and I knew straight away. When Migueli came over to ask me what was wrong, how I was, I told him, with tears in my eyes: “He shattered me, smashed me up.”
It might seem incredible, but very shortly before that happened, Shuster had gone in hard on Goikoetxea. As the Basque had injured the German, the whole stadium was screaming “Shuster! Shuster!” applauding the revenge. The Basque was going mental: “I’m going to kill that guy” he was saying. He was by my side as he was marking me, so I said: “Take it easy, Goiko, chill out, sure you’re losing 3-0; you’ll just get booked for nothing.
I swear I said it to him as I could see he was nervous, not to take the piss or anything. And straight after, well you know what happened. They cleared the ball and I went to get the ball in the middle of the pitch. I ran as I thought Goiko would get there first, and as we played the offside trap I imagined he’d be clear through if I didn’t… I got away from him, touched the ball with the toe of my boot, and when I went to turn around, crack, the axe fell, I felt as if my leg was trapped, as if it was shattered…
Afterwards the only thing I wanted to know was when I could get back to playing. El Flaco Menotti came into the room and said: “You’re a legend, Diego, you’ll come out of this OK. I hope your sacrifice will lead to an end to violence once and for all.”
Over time I learned to forgive Goikoetxea. At that time my brothers and the Barca fans were saying that he was a thug and I didn’t contradict them. The person I can’t forget, however, was Clemente, who was manager of Athletic at that time: in the immediate aftermath of the game he said he was proud of his players and, later, that he was going to wait a week to see if I was really that injured. All the same, the best statement came from Marca, where they had the perfect headline: “No Artists Allowed.” (Prohibido ser artista) It was a good synthesis as at that time there was a huge clash between those of us who actually played football and those who… just ran about. And I was pretty much the standard-bearer of those who had fun with the ball, and right in the country where they put the boot in more than anywhere else. As the Italians knew how to mark you, but the Spaniards would try to kill you on the pitch.”
Speaking of life-changing injuries, el Diego goes on to say that it was in Barcelona that he first started to take cocaine. He doesn’t specify but it seems quite probable that it was during his recuperation that he first dallied with that “bullshit cocaine”.