December 6, 2021

‘Eternal’: Thousands in Argentina pay respects to Maradona

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Thousands of fans in Argentina are paying their respects to Diego Maradona as part of three days of national mourning after he died aged 60 on Wednesday.

The body of the 1986 World Cup-winning captain was transferred to the Casa Rosada presidential palace in Buenos Aires, where he will remain until Saturday.

Early on Thursday, thousands were already forming a snaking line through the streets near the central Plaza de Mayo in the country’s capital after a night of mourning and reminiscing.

Maradona’s body lay in a coffin with the blue and white national flag and an Argentina soccer jersey with the number 10 that had been part of his nickname “D10S” – a play on “dios”, the Spanish word for God.

Big crowds gathered outside the presidential palace in Buenos Aires
Image: Big crowds gathered outside the presidential palace in Buenos Aires
Officials installed barriers to try and control the number of mourners
Image: Officials installed barriers to try and control the number of mourners
Diego Maradona's death has prompted an outpouring of tributes
Image: Diego Maradona’s death has prompted an outpouring of tributes

His family members were among the crowd that gathered outside the Casa Rosada as his coffin was transferred from the ambulance.

“He was someone who touched the sky with his hands but never took his feet off the ground,” President Alberto Fernandez said on Wednesday.

Thousands of fans have gathered on the streets of Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires, praying, laying flowers and chanting for their hero Diego Maradona

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Argentina to mourn his passing, leaving flowers and messages at his childhood home in the outskirts of Buenos Aires and outside the stadium of Maradona’s former club Boca Juniors.

Fans pay tribute to Maradona in Buenos AIres
Image: Fans pay tribute to Maradona in Buenos AIres

In tribute to Maradona, Internacional lit their stadium up in the colours of the Argentine flag after their game with Boca Juniors was postponed following the news of his death.

Boca Juniors, where Maradona had two spells and finished his career, wrote “Eternal thanks. Eternal Diego.” in a tribute to their former player.

Pope Francis, an Argentine and a football fan, remembered Maradona in his prayers, the Vatican said.

preview image 0:35
Diego Maradona fans in Argentina give their reaction to the news of the former World Cup winner’s death at the age of 60.

Maradona also played for Barcelona and Napoli, who are in talks to rename their San Paolo Stadium in his honour, combining its current title with his full iconic name.

A minute’s silence took place before Wednesday’s Champions League matches and the same will happen before all other European fixtures this week.

Fans of Diego Maradona light candles and lay tributes on the streets of Buenos Aires

Bielsa: Maradona ‘beauty’ unmatched

Diego Maradona 0:56
Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa pays tribute to the brilliance of countryman Diego Maradona.

Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa paid tribute to countryman Maradona.

“He was for us, and will continue to be an idol,” Bielsa said during his press conference before Saturday’s Premier League game at Everton.

“Given the fact he is not with us anymore brings great sadness. We have lost an idol and it makes us feel weak.

“What really stood out was his relationship with the public. Everything he did as a footballer was of beauty, which cannot be matched.”

Diego Maradina and Diego Simeone 0:35
Diego Simeone says he couldn’t believe Diego Maradona had died when he found out before Atletico Madrid’s Champions League match with Lokomotiv Moscow and says the world has lost a ‘myth’.

Bielsa believes it is hard compare Maradona to the likes of Alfredo Di Stefano, Johan Cruyff and Pele – fellow greats from different generations.

“If you were to compare the great players, it’s very difficult to come to a conclusion because you have to take into account so many factors,” Bielsa said.

“It all comes down to the feeling that each player has left you at that time, he was part of your time and left you a certain feeling and you carry that with you.

“Something that makes me really sad is that players like Maradona and (Lionel) Messi, who showed individual brilliance through dribbling, they’re versions of players that stop repeating themselves.

“For example, (Kylian) Mbappe is the best player in the world right now, but his art is not comparable to that of Maradona and Messi.”

‘Born as a pawn, dies as a king’

Diego Maradona 3:12
South American expert Tim Vickery pays tribute to Argentina great Diego Maradona who he says through football became a king.

Maradona is remembered for scoring the famous ‘Hand of God’ goal against England in the 1986 World Cup quarter-finals.

Four minutes later, he scored what has been described as the ‘goal of the century’ – collecting the ball in his own half before going on a mazy run past several opposition players before he rounded Peter Shilton to score.

As well as the World Cup triumph in 1986, when Argentina beat West Germany in the final, Maradona also led his country to the final of the Italia 90 tournament, and managed them in South Africa in 2010.

10 Diego Maradona 0:19
Marseille head coach Andre Villas-Boas says FIFA should pay tribute to Diego Maradona by retiring the number 10 shirt for all teams.

His international playing career ended after he failed a drugs test at the 1994 World Cup in the United States.

He was also banned from football in 1991 after testing positive for cocaine while playing for Italian side Napoli, where he won two Serie A titles during a successful seven-year spell.

Since his retirement from football on his 37th birthday, he continued to be plagued by problems, but South American football expert Tim Vickery says the sporting genius of the attacking midfielder will forever be his legacy.

“The Maradona of the 21st century will fade into history, will fade from the collective consciousness,” Vickery told Sky Sports News.

“The Maradona that will be immortalised is the Maradona at the height of his powers in 1986.”

Diego Maradona: In pictures

Argentine soccer star Diego Armando Maradona, being carried by fans after winning the 1981 local Championship with Boca Juniors at La Bombonera stadium in Buenos Aires. Boca Juniors,
Image: Diego Maradona, being carried by fans after winning the 1981 Argentine championship with Boca Juniors

From his days at Boca Juniors, to Napoli and various World Cups, relive some amazing imagery from a quite extraordinary career.

Diego Maradona: The iconic images