Diego Maradona, directed by Asif Kapadia, is a superior work to Pele, just released on Netflix. Maradona makes for a more compelling subject. More drama, and melodrama and bathos, surrounds him. A lot of it you couldn’t make up.
Edson Arantes is interviewed in his film but he doesn’t really give much away. Obviously it’s great to see his goals - just some of the 1,283 - but I’m wondering if the doc might have benefited from a bit more humour. In, fact, where’s Davie Robb?
The mad-haired, crash-bang-wallop Aberdeen centre-forward wound down his career in the North American Soccer League, just like Pele, with the imports from Europe and South America promoting “soccer” off the park as well as on it.
“We had to turn up at swanky parties and sell the game to the rich and famous - man, that was hard,” Robb told me a few years ago with a twinkle in his eye. “There were nights round the piano at Sammy Davis Jr’s penthouse suite. I had supper with Frank Sinatra once - Frank and me frae Broughty Ferry, can you believe that? I got introduced to the crowd at a Harlem Globetrotters game. Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd became a good friend. I went on stage with the band Yes.”
And among the footballers - Franz Beckenbauer and George Best and Johan Cruyff and Pele and, yes, Davie frae the Ferry - there was no hierarchy or order of merit, just a sweet little democracy. Because football was new in the States, no one was that much bigger than anyone else.
“So we’d be in a nightclub,” continued our man, “and there would be introductions happening. Maybe Franz would say: ‘This is Pele and do you know Davie Robb?’ All nice and friendly and I’d go: ‘Howzit gaun?’ Drinks? Get them in, someone, and Pele would say: ‘No, my turn - Davie got the last round.’”
“That was an amazing time. I used to deliberately cut myself shaving to check I was still alive!”