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Naples grieves over death of adoptive son Maradona

Last updated on: November 26, 2020 23:52 IST
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A woman hangs out on a balcony a sheet reading 'Bye Diego' to mourn the death of Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona, in Naples on Thursday 

IMAGE: A woman hangs out on a balcony a sheet reading 'Bye Diego' to mourn the death of Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona, in Naples, Italy November 26, 2020. Photograph: Yara Nardi/Reuters

Fans streamed to Napoli stadium on Thursday to pay their respects to Diego Armando Maradona, grieving a man who achieved god-like status in the Italian city where he played some of his most sublime soccer.

The diminutive Argentine left Naples almost 30 years ago, but his spirit never departed, with a giant mural of him still staring down on the traffic-clogged streets and his photograph placed alongside images of saints in shop windows.

 

Hundreds of blue and white Napoli scarves were tied to railings outside the stadium, and flowers, childrens' pictures, church candles and even a bottle of wine were laid out along the pavement in a rapidly expanding, makeshift shrine.

A fan mourns the death of Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona, in Naples

IMAGE: A fan mourns the death of Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona, in Naples. Photograph: Yara Nardi/Reuters

"He was unique, he represented everything, everything for us Neapolitans", fan Gianni Autiero told Reuters while tearfully looking at the gigantic portrait of Maradona which adorns the facade of a 10-storey apartment bloc.

"I have cried for only a few people in my life, and Diego is one of them," Autiero said.

News of Maradona's death on Wednesday drew thousands of stunned Neapolitans into the evening streets in defiance of a coronavirus lockdown, and the grief showed no sign of abating as day broke.

"Yesterday the entire city of Naples died, together with Argentina," said Lorenzo Rubino, 26, who wasn't even born when Maradona played for Napoli. "I hadn't cried since my mother's death two years ago."

A figurine depicting late soccer legend Diego Maradona with angel wings is pictured the day after his death at a shop on Via San Gregorio Armeno, the famous street in Naples dedicated to producing nativity figurines, in Naples

IMAGE: A figurine depicting late soccer legend Diego Maradona with angel wings is pictured the day after his death at a shop on Via San Gregorio Armeno, the famous street in Naples dedicated to producing nativity figurines, in Naples. Photograph: Ciro De Luca/Reuters

Maradona came to Naples, a city suffused with sun and superstition, in 1984 when he was 23 for a then world-record $7.5 million contract. Over the next seven years, he helped perennial underdogs Napoli to their only two Serie A titles and their sole major European trophy.

When he was flown in by helicopter for his official presentation, 75,000 people packed into the stadium to see him. Thereafter, match-day was the highlight of many peoples' lives.

A general view shows a mural by artist Jorit depicting late Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona, in Naples on Thursday 

IMAGE: A general view shows a mural by artist Jorit depicting late Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona, in Naples on Thursday. Photograph: Yara Nardi/Reuters

"Dad did not come to the hospital when I was born because he stayed at the stadium until the end of the game to watch Diego play," said Teresa De Lucia.

City mayor Luigi De Magistris has called for the city stadium to be renamed in honour of Maradona.

"He loved Naples and through football he wanted to let the world know what Naples is, a city full of humanity, full of heart, energy and imagination. A volcano for better or for worse," the mayor told RTL radio.

Tributes are seen on the fences in front of the San Paolo stadium during the mourning of the death of soccer player Diego Armando Maradona in Naples on Thursday.

IMAGE: Tributes are seen on the fences in front of the San Paolo stadium during the mourning of the death of soccer player Diego Armando Maradona in Naples on Thursday. Photograph: Ivan Romano/Getty Images

People are seen placing tributes in memory of Diego Maradona outside the stadium prior to the UEFA Europa League Group F stage match between SSC Napoli and HNK Rijeka at Stadio San Paolo in Naples, Italy, on Thursday

IMAGE: People are seen placing tributes in memory of Diego Maradona outside the stadium prior to the UEFA Europa League Group F stage match between SSC Napoli and HNK Rijeka at Stadio San Paolo in Naples, Italy, on Thursday. Photograph: Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images
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