Diego Maradona, the Argentine who became a national hero as one of the greatest ever players of the beautiful game, performing with a roguish cunning and extravagant control while pursuing a personal life rife with drug and alcohol abuse and health problems, died of heart failure Wednesday aged 60.
News of the death brought an outpouring of mourning and remembrance in Argentina. Such was his stature — in 2000, FIFA voted him and Pele of Brazil the sport’s two greatest players — that the government declared three days of mourning. “I have lost a dear friend, and the world has lost a legend,” said Pele, 80. “One day, I hope, we will play football together in the sky.”
Tens of thousands of fans, many weeping, filed past Maradona’s coffin of in Buenos Aires on Thursday in ceremonies that mixed head-of-state-like honors with the chaos of a rowdy stadium. Viewing was halted shortly before 6 p.m. and the body was taken away for burial, frustrating many who were waiting to pay their respects and causing new tensions at the gates of the cemetery.
If it wasn’t for a positive test for cocaine use in 1991, Japanese soccer may well have been driven into the professional era not by Zico’s Kashima Antlers but by Maradona’s Nagoya Grampus Eight, notes Dan Orlowitz.
Instead of “The House That Zico Built” nestled in the backwaters of Ibaraki Prefecture, perhaps Toyota Stadium, which Grampus has called home since 2001, might be known as “The House of God” in honor of one of the greatest players the beautiful game has ever seen.
While Maradona never suited up for a J. League club (though his younger brother Hugo did, in the mid-1990s), his legacy has repeatedly touched these shores and lives on through generations of fans and players who had the fortune to encounter him at his peak, Orlowitz writes.