Diego Maradona funeral: Fans clash with police in Buenos Aires as Argentina football icon is laid to rest

James Robson
·3-min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Diego Maradona was laid to rest overnight in a private ceremony attended by close friends and family.

Only two dozen people were permitted for the Argentina legend’s burial at Jardin Bella Vista cemetery in Buenos Aires.

Earlier in the day, thousands of mourners had filed past his coffin as the nation displayed a massive outpouring of grief for the 1986 World Cup winner, who is considered by many to be the greatest footballer of time.

But that turned into anger and unrest as many were unable to pay their final respects, sparking clashes with police.

Maradona died on Wednesday after suffering a heart attack just weeks after undergoing brain surgery at the start of the month.

The news sent shockwaves around the world but in particular his homeland where he has been afforded god-like status.

On Thursday, many were left distraught after failing to pay their last respects due to the sheer numbers that filed the streets of Argentina’s capital. They reacted furiously when a viewing at the presidential mansion was called to halt - 12 hours after it started - with fans hurling rocks and objects at riot police, who responded with rubber bullets.

It led to injuries and arrests, prompted Maradona’s family to call an end to the public viewing. Still fans tried to scale the fences of the mansion, unable to contain their emotion.

In more remarkable scenes, supporters waving flags and draped in Argentina shirts descended on Buenos Aires to get a sight of Maradona’s funeral car.

Despite an enormous security detail of police bikes, they tried to touch it each time it came to a halt on the journey from the mansion to the ceremony.

“Diego is not dead, Diego lives in the people,” they chanted - and hundreds of fans blocked entry to the cemetery. They continued to chant as the private ceremony began.

The 60-year-old’s coffin was draped in the nation’s flag and No10 shirts of Argentina and Boca Juniors, among others.

The public viewing had began at 6.15am with Maradona’s daughters Dalma, Giannina and Jana attending.

His ex-wife, Claudia Villafane, came and later another ex-wife Veronica Ojeda, with their son, Diego Fernando.

Members of the 1986 World Cup-winning squad, including Oscar Ruggeri, paid respects - as did former West Ham and Manchester City star Carlos Tevez.

Argentina’s president Alberto Fernandez arrived at midday with a shirt from Argentinos Juniors, the club where Maradona began his career.

Nahuel de Lima was the first fan to visit and said: “He made Argentina be recognised all over the world, who speaks of Maradona also speaks of Argentina.

“Diego is the people. Today the shirts, the political flags don’t matter. We came to say goodbye to a great.”

While fans wore masks due to coronavirus, it was never going to be a day when social distancing guidelines were observed.

<p>Riot police clash with Maradona fans in Buenos Aires</p>Getty Images

Riot police clash with Maradona fans in Buenos Aires

Getty Images

Social worker Rosa Noemi Monje said: “It is impossible to ask them to distance. We behave respectfully and offer them sanitizer and face masks.”

The scenes in Argentina underlined the importance of Maradona to his nation.

He was immortalised after his ‘Hand of God’ goal against England in Mexico in 1986 as he led his country to World Cup glory.

On Thursday, fans chanted: “The one who doesn’t jump is English,” and “Brazilian, Brazilian, you are so bitter, Maradona is bigger than Pele.”

But the overwhelming size of the crowd led to clashes with police, who were forced to use tear gas.

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