Former leader of the Democratic Party Anthony Buttigieg has revealed how he spent a weekend working with Diego Maradona in an experience that highlighted the personal challenges of the flawed football genius.

Renowned as one of the greatest footballers of all time, Maradona died of a heart attack on Wednesday, having undergone brain surgery earlier in this month. He was 60 years old. 

While he was exalted for his tenacity and talent on the field, Maradona was plagued by health issues caused by an excess of drug and alcohol use. 

A doctor by profession, Buttigieg revealed how he had spent a long weekend working with Maradona while studying sports medicine in Rome.

“In 1991 I had the dubious privilege of spending a long weekend working with Diego Maradona," he said.

"I was spending a month at the Instituto dello Scienza dello Sport in Rome furthering my experience in sports medicine under the tutelage of Professore Antonio dal Monte.

“For some reason he took a liking to me, and whilst he closed the facility to everyone but his closest assistants he invited me to assist him in conditioning Diego Maradona for the coming football season.”

Buttigieg said he had used the term "dubious privilege" not because of his "undoubted football genius, but because of his very evident reliance on illicit drugs and his manipulation by the parasites that fed on his naivety.” 

In the same year, Maradona received a 15-month ban from the beautiful game after a positive drugs test. 

For much of his career, Maradona was addicted to cocaine and suffered numerous health complications as a result of his dependence on drugs and alcohol. He was hospitalised three times in the past 20 years. In 2007 he was treated for hepatitis and the effects of alcohol abuse and in 2019 underwent surgery after a hernia caused bleeding in his stomach. 

“Excellence and genius in a person does not mean they are invulnerable," Buttigieg said on Facebook.

"It means they need the support of those less flamboyant, possibly less brilliant, but definitely far more steady and loyal to fully express and develop their ability."

He reflected that society was comprised of both visible and invisible support and that everyone should be proud of their function in life.

“RIP Diego Maradona, you taught me a very important life lesson.”

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