At Diego’s dwelling, a flood of tears

Buenos Aires, November 26

Argentina’s stunned football fans sought each other to mourn the death of Diego Maradona, gathering by the hundreds in spots linked to the life of the legendary player. They gathered outside the humble home where he was born and raised in the Villa Fiorito neighbourhood.

The Golden Kid

  • Birth: 30 October 1960 (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
  • Death: 25 November 2020 (Buenos Aires)

    n Height: 1.65 m (5 feet 5 inches)

  • Playing position: Attacking midfielder
    National team (1977-1994)

  • 34 goals in 91 games for Argentina (fifth in the all-time Argentine top goal-scorers list)

  • World Cup record: Played 4 (1982-1994); Title in 1986, runner-up in 1990

1986 World Cup

  • Maradona won the Golden Ball. He had five goals and five assists — he is the only player, since 1966, with at least five goals and five assists in a single World Cup. He was involved in 56 percent of his team’s shots.

Club record (1976-1997)

  • Maradona played professionally for 21 years. As a 16-year-old, he started with Argentinos Juniors, and retired at Boca Juniors at 38.

Napoli (1984–1991)

  • His most successful stint came at Napoli. He won nine club trophies — 5 with Napoli, 3 with Barcelona and 1 with Boca Juniors
  • Maradona scored 115 goals for Napoli. He is third in the club’s all-time top goal-scorers list

They went to the stadium of Argentinos Juniors, where he started as a professional footballer in 1976. They stood at the historic La Bombonera stadium of his beloved Boca Juniors. More were at the headquarters of Gimnasia La Plata, the team he was coaching. “I am touched. I can’t understand it, I can’t see the reality. Diego will never die, today is the birth of the Maradona myth,” said Dante Lopez, a physician who went to the Argentinos Juniors stadium, which carries the beloved player’s name.

Candles in the wind

Fans put candles and flowers along the wall around the field. “Diego was Argentina in the world. He gave us joy and we will never be able to repay him for so much joy,” said Argentine President Alberto Fernandez, who issued a decree for three days of national mourning and offered the presidential palace for the funeral.

Mariano Jeijer sat with his wife and their baby in a small car near the Boca Juniors stadium. He said he didn’t want to be sad at home.

“Diego is a symbol of being Argentinian. He is someone that made us very happy,” Jeijer said. Jejier said his devotion to Maradona is justified by the two goals he scored against England in Argentina’s 2-1 victory in the quarterfinals of the 1986 World Cup. That game was seen by many Argentine fans as payback for the Falklands war four years earlier in which Britain defeated Argentina.

“The happiest moment was the first goal against the English. I was 12. I screamed as if I was crazy. I don’t even remember the second,” Jeijer said.

Father Maradona

Nearby, Patricia Sanchez said Maradona “was like a father, and we were his children.” She stood with her son Angel, who wore a blue and yellow Boca Juniors coat. Maradona played for Boca Juniors in 1981 before he moved to Barcelona, then returned there to retire as a player in 1997. There were no tears, only celebration in Villa Fiorito, where Maradona learned how to play football on muddy fields.

“Ole, ole, Diego, Diego,” the neighbours sang in front of the house on Azamor Street where Maradona lived until Argentinos Juniors bought him a better one. “Diego is the greatest, he is a national pride,” the fans chanted.

Although the property no longer belongs to Maradona’s family, neighbours began painting a mural of their idol on a wall. Mariela Cordoba said she didn’t finish lunch after learning of his death from a heart attack. “The hunger was gone and we all came here,” she said. “We came to help with the wall because we are neighbors of Maradona’s life. People here are proud. They can say Maradona lived here.”

At the headquarters of Gimnasia La Plata, where Maradona became coach in September 2019, many fans cried in the stands. He made his last appearance there at a game October 30, which was his 60th birthday. “We will keep that smile, and the most beautiful crest on your chest,” the club said on Twitter. “We lived an unforgettable story.” — PTI

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