Thousands bid adieu to Maradona as Argentina grieves

BUENOS AIRES/ NAPLES, NOV 26 (AGENCIES/IANS) | Publish Date: 11/26/2020 12:11:44 PM IST

Thousands of fans are paying their final respects to Argentine football legend Diego Maradona at the presidential palace in Buenos Aires.

Three days of national mourning have begun in Argentina after Maradona, a national hero, died following a heart attack on Wednesday at the age of 60.
Some wept, others blew kisses and said prayers as they filed past the coffin being displayed at Casa Rosada.
A million people are expected to visit his casket.
Officials had rushed to install cordons and other measures to try to limit the spread of coronavirus, as big crowds gathered on the capital’s Plaza de Mayo on Wednesday night.
Late into the night, a sea of people in Argentina shirts thronged the streets across the country to mourn Maradona’s death, and celebrate his life.
Maradona, one of the greatest football players of all time who played for clubs including Barcelona and Napoli, was captain when Argentina won the 1986 World Cup, scoring the famous “Hand of God” goal against England in the quarter-finals.
Former Tottenham midfielder Ossie Ardiles, who played alongside Maradona at the 1982 World Cup, said he was “a god” in Argentina, in Naples and all around the world.
Maradona’s death has triggered an outpouring of grief in Argentina and across the world.
At 22:00 on Wednesday (01:00 GMT) - an hour chosen to match the number on his shirt - stadiums across Argentina switched on their floodlights to honour his memory.
Fans flocked to La Bombonera, Boca Juniors’ stadium in Buenos Aires, where many were in tears.
Thousands of miles away in Italy, fans also gathered outside Napoli’s San Paolo stadium, which was lit up in tribute to the man who scored 81 goals in 188 appearances for the club.
Fireworks erupted in the sky as those below, clad in Maradona shirts and even Maradona face masks, chanted and wept.
Maradona was not just a sportsman for Argentines, he was an icon, a political player and of course, a loveable rogue. There is deep sadness as people pay their respects to their superstar footballer.
But his influence goes beyond Argentina - South Americans are proud of their footballing heritage so this news has resonated across the region.
In neighbouring Brazil, where their man Pelé vied for the title of world’s best footballer, Maradona’s death was headline news - much of the rivalry between the two countries can be put down to the two players, such is the passion for the beautiful game here.
But rivalry was put aside with Pelé paying tribute to Maradona as a dear friend. “One day, I hope, we will have a kick about together in heaven,” he said.
His former Argentina team-mate Ardiles said today’s football superstars “could not even dream” of being admired as much as Maradona was.
“He will be remembered as a genius in football,” he told the BBC. “You can see the extraordinary amount of interest that he generates.”
When the news of Maradona’s death broke, Argentina and Barcelona forward Lionel Messi led tributes, writing on social media: “He has left us but he will never leave us because Diego is eternal.”
Former England striker and Match of the Day host Gary Lineker, who was part of the England team beaten by Argentina at the 1986 World Cup, said Maradona was “by some distance, the best player of my generation and arguably the greatest of all time”.
In a statement on social media, the Argentine Football Association expressed “its deepest sorrow for the death of our legend”, adding: “You will always be in our hearts.”
Napoli to rename its stadium in honour of Maradona
Serie A club Napoli on Thursday renamed its stadium in honour of Diego Maradona a day after he died aged 60. Club president Aulerio de Laurentiis said in a statement that the San Paolo Stadium will now be renamed after him.
“I believe it is right to name the San Paolo after you, so we can keep you with us as a witness of the excellent path this team has taken,” said de Laurentiis in a statement put up on the club’s website.
Earlier, Naples mayor Naples Luigi De Magistri had urged Napoli to change the name of the stadium in honour of the Argentine football great. “We will name the Stadio San Paolo in honour of Diego Armando Maradona!” he tweeted.
Maradona played for Napoli between 1984 and 1991, winning the Serie A twice, one Coppa Italia, and the UEFA Cup once. Napoli had never won the title before Maradona’s arrival, even flirting with relegation many a times. Maradona left as the club’s highest goalscorer, a record that stood until 2017 when Marek Hamsik surpassed his record.

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