Football world mourns death of Argentina legend Diego Maradona

·3-min read

The Argentine government has announced three days of national mourning following the death on Wednesday of Diego Maradona at the age of 60.

The former skipper of the national football team died after a heart attack at his home in the suburbs of Buenos Aires, his spokesman said.

"Certainly, one day we'll kick a ball together in the sky above," said the Brazilian football legend Pelé with whom he was often compared.

European football's governing body Uefa said all of Wednesday night's Champions League matches would observe a minute of silence before kick-off in tribute.

Born in the Buenos Aires working class suburb of Lanus on 30 October, 1960, Diego Armando Maradona was the fifth of eight children.

His mother, Dalma - known to his fans as "Dona Tota" - saw a star reflected on the floor in the church where her son was baptised and imagined a bright future as an accountant.

Discovery

But he was to eventually glitter in another field. After being discovered in street kickabouts by the scout for the first division club Argentinos Juniors, Maradona made his league debut at 15.

Two years later, he just missed out on selection for the Argentina squad that would go on to claim the 1978 World Cup. In the 1982 tournament in Spain, he failed to inspire the defending champions.

However in 1986, his legend was made on the way to the title. In the quarter-final against England at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, he bagged a brace. One goal was notorious. The other glorious.

Controversy

Five minutes into the second-half, Maradona ran onto a botched clearance, jumped up and flicked the ball over the head of the England goalkeeper Peter Shilton. Ali Bennaceur, the Tunisian referee, as well as his linesman were deceived and Maradona later anointed the strike: "the hand of God".

His second was distinctly otherworldly: a 50 yard slalom past half a dozen defenders demonstrating power, pace and panache. It has been labelled one of the greatest goals.

England striker, Gary Lineker, who featured in the match, was among former players to pay tribute.

Napoli, who Maradona, inspired to two Serie A titles as well as the Coppa Italia and Uefa Cup, issued a simple tweet in English.

Luigi de Magistris, the mayor of Naples, called on Wednesday for Napoli's San Paolo stadium to be renamed in honour of Maradona.

He added: “Diego Armando Maradona is dead. The most immense footballer of all time. Diego made our people dream, he redeemed Naples with his genius. In 2017 he became an honorary citizen. Diego, Neapolitan and Argentine, you gave us joy and happiness! Naples loves you.”

After leaving Italy in 1991, a brief stay at Sevilla in Spain preceded his return to his homeland where he turned out for Newell's Old Boys and Boca Juniors.

The 1994 World Cup ended in disgrace. Less than two years after 15 month suspension for drug taking, Maradona tested positive for ephedrine and he never played for Argentina again.

But even as his post playing career flitted between seemingly hare-brained coaching gigs and baffling TV shows, Maradona's shadow loomed continuously over the national team especially its star pupil Lionel Messi.

For all his skills and genius, Messi has constantly been reminded he has not led the Albiceleste to World Cup glory like El Pibe de Oro.

"A very sad day for all Argentines and football," Messi wrote on Instagram. "He has left us but he will never leave us because Diego is eternal.

"I will keep all the beautiful moments that I lived with him and would like to send my condolences to all his family and friends. RIP."