Gary Waddock has paid tribute to Diego Maradona and described playing against the Argentina legend as a “wonderful experience”.
The U’s Assistant Head Coach expressed his sadness at the passing of the Argentine legend, who died yesterday, November 25, at his home in Buenos Aires.
“It’s very sad that he has passed away,” said Waddock.
“My thoughts are with his family and friends, and everybody in football is thinking of him and his family.”
It was back in May 1980 at Lansdowne Road in Dublin that 18-year-old Waddock was earning his second cap for the Republic of Ireland against Argentina, who included the 19-year-old Maradona.
“We were aware of him anyway breaking onto the footballing scene, and I was so lucky to have had that experience of playing against him,” said Waddock.
“I can still remember it very clearly. He was just such a talented player back then, and what he went on to achieve throughout his career to be an absolute legend of the game.
“He was so good, so quick, so strong and had such ability at that young age as well so it was no surprise that he went on to achieve what he did.
“Going into a game, when you’re picked and you know who you’re coming up against, you’re obviously hoping that the better players play in those big games.
“To then enter the field of play knowing you are on the same pitch as somebody like that, and to be close against them is a wonderful experience.
“I have never forgotten it, and I never will.”
Waddock played with and against some world-class players during his career.
He went on to earn 21 caps for the Republic of Ireland, having a distinguished career in the top-flight with QPR - featuring in an FA Cup final - and with Belgium side Charleroi and Millwall.
But he said: “Maradona is one of the greatest players ever to have played the game, so for little old me to enter the field of play against him - I’m very proud to have been able to say that I played against him.
“He was a genius. What he has done in the game is amazing, anyone to have achieved just a little bit of what he did would be very pleased.
“He has touched the heart of everyone with what he did on the football pitch.”