In an essay for The Guardian, Yarrow described how he managed to get close enough to Maradona to snap his now-famous portrait of the late player being hoisted up by his teammates in victory.
“I bribed a stadium guard with whisky and got dead close just as he was lifted on to another player’s shoulders,” Yarrow, who was just 20 years old at the time, wrote. “It was like a biblical scene. He looked magnificent.”
He continued, reminiscing about getting to the stadium early in the morning.
“I remember going to the stadium at six o’clock in the morning, although the game was at midday,” he wrote. “I bribed a Mexican guard with a bit of whisky and said: ‘Do you mind if I walk on to the pitch?’ In those days, the Azteca stadium held around 120,000 people. He allowed me to walk from one goal to the other, and I could see my footprints in the dew on the grass. It was a bit of an epiphany. There’s that Mark Twain saying: ‘The two most important days in your life are the day your born and the day you find out why.’ On the pitch I thought: ‘Well, I’m doing this at 20; photography has surely got to be a big part of my life?'”
Yarrow also recalled how “lucky” he got in the moment, and how, since these were the days before digital photography, he didn’t know what a good shot he had until the film was developed.
“Maradona looked right in my eyes while holding up the World Cup. Those were the days of film, so you didn’t know if you’d gotten the shot – you didn’t know whether you’d captured it sharp or got the lighting right. I wouldn’t find out until later just how well the photo had come out, but I did return to the goalmouth to find, to my surprise, the $7,000 lens and camera still sitting there among the thousands of people.”
“I remember that day as if it were yesterday, and I was so fortunate to have my moment in the chaos,” he continued. “Maradona looked magnificent riding high on Argentinian shoulders, but little did I know back then that my photograph would stand the test of time. Maradona was a genius, and I owe him so much.”
Maradona died on 25 November last year at age 60 of a heart attack. He was known for being one of the greatest football players in the history of the sport, winning the FIFA Player of the 20th Century award alongside Brazilian former professional forward Pelé.