Diego's last dance: the night Maradona played in Toronto

Blood is thicker than water. There can be no other explanation for why Diego Maradona ended up playing for Toronto Italia in September 1996. Maradona had been scoring for Argentina at the World Cup two years earlier; now he was scoring the winning goal for a tiny club in Ontario.

A few decades later, when the Canadian filmmaker Adrijan Assoufi heard that one of the greatest footballers of all time had played on a pitch in his neighbourhood, he set about getting his hands on footage of the match. “This is a pitch that hosts house league games and practices,” says Adrijan. “It’s pretty run down; it only has one stand right now. As kids we’d change in those same dressing rooms where in the footage you can see him.”

Everyone in attendance that night was visibly starstruck. They were used to playing with a Maradona – Diego’s brother Lalo, who was on the books at Toronto Italia and arranged the game – but not the Maradona. To explain just how unlikely a situation this was, Adrijan points out that the team’s captain now sells mattresses for a living. The defender responsible for marking Diego on the night works as PE teacher at an elementary school, where he shows his pupils the match as a claim to fame.

The footage only exists thanks to Toronto Italia owner Pasquale Fioccola. Aware that he might want to capture the event for posterity, Fioccola gave a friend of his access to the dressing rooms and pitch. That’s how Adrijan’s film came about. “I reached out to Fioccola. He now runs an auto body shop. He was kind enough to share the VHS tape that his friend shot back in the day.”

The VHS tape had been gathering dust in a cupboard in Fioccola’s house. He had been very protective of the video, and had rejected several requests for access down the years. However, owing to his commitment to helping young people in Toronto, he made an exception for Adrijan. “I’m not sure what his definition of youth is, I’m 27!” says Adrijan with a laugh.

Using software he had purchased to digitise his parents’ home movies, Adrijan brought to life the footage of one of Maradona’s last matches. Now it is all successfully converted, Adrijan says he wants people to watch it and feel the same way he felt when he witnessed it for the first time. “We’re hoping this footage creates that same kind of goosebump feeling. It’s a very iconic, local Canadian soccer story.”

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