Diego Maradona: footballer buried while Argentina cries
Soccer legend Diego Maradona has been buried in a private ceremony after a day of emotional scenes in the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires.
Only about two dozen close family and friends attended the final ceremony on Thursday.
But earlier, large crowds came to pay their respects, and many wept, blew kisses and prayed as they marched past his coffin.
Maradona died of a heart attack on Wednesday at age 60.
His death sparked mourning around the world, but nowhere was he felt more fiercely than in a country that saw him as a national hero.
Maradona’s coffin, draped in Argentina’s national flag and soccer jersey, with his trademark number 10 on the back, was on public display at the presidential palace on Thursday.
By mid-afternoon, the queues stretched for more than a kilometer and the police confronted the mourners as they tried to close the palace in anticipation of the wake scheduled for 4:00 p.m. local time (7:00 p.m. GMT).
There were reports of the use of tear gas and rubber bullets as officers in riot gear struggled to contain the crowd.
A supporter, Rubén Hernández, thought that the police had overreacted.
“We were quietly queuing and suddenly the police started firing rubber bullets,” he was quoted as saying by the Reuters news agency. “Crazy, I just want to say goodbye to Diego.”
Authorities were eventually forced to stop the public display of the coffin to keep the peace.
The motorized funeral procession drove his body to the Bella Vista Cemetery on the outskirts of the city, where he was buried next to the graves of his parents.
The atmosphere varied greatly outside the presidential palace. Those who waited to enter sang and sang.
“If you don’t jump, you’re English” is one of the Argentines’ favorite songs about the 1986 game with England and THAT goal, the Hand of God, something that many here saw as a kind of revenge after the Falklands War . , known here as the Falklands.
But on the other side of the square, there was another line with those who were leaving, many wiping their tears or hugging after processing what happened.
This was not just the death of Argentina’s superstar footballer, but the passing of a man who many saw as a national icon, a star that made Argentina famous and, above all, a very human role model that Argentines loved his defects and all.
A man who was respected for achieving so much, but never forgot his roots.
‘He was everything to us’
At the Italian club Napoli, where Maradona played for seven years and transformed his fortunes, fans flocked to the stadium to pay their respects chanting “Diego, Diego!”
It is the second day that people have challenged a coronavirus lockdown to pay tribute, ahead of Napoli’s Europa League closed-door match against Croatian team Rijeka.
Napoli’s team, who all stepped onto the pitch wearing black armbands and Maradona’s No. 10 jersey, won the match 2-0.
“He was unique, he represented everything, everything for us Neapolitans,” fan Gianni Autiero told Reuters. “I have cried for a few people in my life and Diego is one of them.”
The world mourns Argentine soccer legend Maradona
One of the best footballers of all time, Maradona had a convulsive personal life marked by addiction to cocaine and alcohol. He underwent successful surgery on a cerebral blood clot in early November and was due to be treated for alcohol dependence.
Local media said preliminary results of an autopsy showed he had suffered from “acute heart failure.”
The former Argentine attacking and technical midfielder died at his home in Tigre, near Buenos Aires. The last person to see Maradona alive was his nephew Johnny Esposito, according to statements collected by officials.
Maradona is survived by five children and by his ex-wife, Claudia Villafane, 58, with whom he separated in 2004 after 20 years of marriage.
After the news of his death was known, at 10:00 p.m. on Wednesday (01:00 GMT), a time chosen to coincide with the number of his shirt, the stadiums of Argentina turned on their lights to honor his memory.
Fans flocked to La Bombonera, the Boca Juniors stadium in Buenos Aires, where many cried.
Maradona, who also played for Barcelona, was team captain when Argentina won the 1986 World Cup, scoring the famous “Hand of God” goal against England in the quarterfinals.
To score the goal, Maradona used his hand to deflect the ball past England goalkeeper Peter Shilton, but the referee didn’t see him. It remains one of the most controversial moments in the World Cup.
Former Tottenham midfielder Ossie Ardiles, who played alongside Maradona in the 1982 World Cup, told the BBC that “he will be remembered as a football genius.”
The forward of Argentina and Barcelona, Lionel Messi, also paid tribute, writing on social media: “He has left us but he will never leave us because Diego is eternal.”
Former England striker and Game of the Day host Gary Lineker, who was part of the England team defeated by Argentina in the 1986 World Cup, said Maradona was “by far the best player of my generation and possibly The greatest of all time”. .
In a statement on social networks, the Argentine Football Association expressed “its deepest sorrow for the death of our legend”, adding: “You will always be in our hearts.”