When Raimondo Ponte (65) learns of Maradona’s death, he begins to cry. «That Diego had to die so early makes me sad. Suddenly all the experiences and events from before are there again. ”
It is in January 1985 when the native Neapolitan Ponte lets his contacts play and after his ligament rupture is allowed to do his rehab at SSC Naples. They are happy at GC, so their midfield star is fit again at the start of training in Zurich. Ponte trained with Napoli for two months. With Diego Maradona. A few months after the Argentine was received like a messiah by 85,000 people in the San Paolo stadium. Ponte shows a photo that shows him side by side with the football god in San Paolo. “The way he stands there, with the open shoes, that’s how he trained. Sometimes Diego’s shoes flew through the air. “
Raimondo Ponte, wie war Maradona?
Raimondo Ponte: Diego was just a nice guy, nice and accommodating. Every day he brought little things with him to training that he distributed to everyone. Drinks, cakes or biscuits.
Did he bring cake to training?
Yes. But that was just one example of his generosity. If the Napoli masseur at the time would tell you who Diego helped back then and what he did for his friends and the friends of his friends and their friends, you would have tears in your eyes. At that time there was probably no family in Naples who had problems that Maradona did not help.
He was also taken advantage of.
He was loved, adored and also taken advantage of, yes. But I didn’t realize that when I was there. For me he was someone who distributed a lot, but also had an incredible amount. You should have seen his villa. He had everything you could want. Of course, he also let a lot of people live with him.
You were at his home too?
Yes. Everyone who wanted to see him had to go to his villa. He could actually only leave her for training and the games because he would have been crushed by the fans on the street. I was allowed to experience what it’s like to be out and about with Diego.
When we moved to Aargau, I was eight. I was born and raised in Licignano, a small village about 10 kilometers from Naples Central Station. When I played at GC and in the national team, my childhood friends founded a small Ponte fan club in Licignano. To return the favor, I wanted to drop by with Diego one evening. He accepted immediately. So it happened that I picked him up at his villa and we drove to Licignano. But already two or three kilometers from the clubhouse there was no getting through. A huge crowd, clogged streets. We had to turn.
Has it been leaked that Maradona is coming?
You could say that too. (Laughs) The reason was that I must have made a little mistake the day before and told a buddy who I would bring with me. For Maradona, the Neapolitans left everything behind. Diego took it easy. He said we would go another time. But unfortunately it didn’t come to that.
You were a Swiss national player, played at GC, Nottingham and Bastia. How was training with Maradona?
With the ball he was in another world. I have often seen him juggling and tried to do the same. I hardly succeeded. The ball just stuck to Diego. I couldn’t do anything compared to him!
And in running training?
Many say yes, Diego regularly skipped training. When I was there it never happened. The only difference is that he has never been there for running. But not out of laziness, but because he would have been ashamed if he had always been at the bottom. Diego made up for the unit with the pastry coach when the others were already gone. Sometimes I was still there for rehab. For me he’s the best footballer of all time. I am convinced that it would be even better with today’s rules.
It is only thanks to Diego that stars like Messi are protected by the referees today. Today unimaginable what he had to take on the field. They always covered him up and then often purposely scrubbed him away. Diego was fair game on the pitch – and yet he decided games single-handedly.
Did you see Maradona again later?
Yes, whenever he came to Switzerland. For example, when he played in the Uefa Cup with Napoli against Wettingen, I visited him the day before the game in his room at the Hotel Holiday Inn in Regensdorf. We drank coffee and chatted. I got to know Diego as a lovely guy and that’s how I will remember him.