A long line of thousands of supporters began to meander at dawn around the historic Place de Mai in the hope of entering Casa Rosada, the seat of the Argentine Presidency where the funeral vigil was being held until 4 p.m. local (7 p.m. GMT). Scuffles broke out with the police who tried around 2 p.m. to interrupt access to the ardent chapel.
A huge black ribbon adorned the entrance to the pink stone building, whose flags were at half mast as a sign of national mourning decreed for three days.
The closed coffin containing the remains of the football legend was covered with the Argentinian flag and the various jerseys of the teams for which Maradona played, in particular those of the Argentinian selection and Boca Juniors, flocked with the mythical number 10.
The funeral, “with a religious service”, was planned in the wake of the Jardin de Paz cemetery, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, spokesman Sebastian Sanchi told AFP. Fist raised or hand on heart, fans have followed one another in front of the remains of the idol who died Wednesday at the age of 60 from cardiac arrest. “It’s a genius, it’s the people, it’s us, it’s life and love”, ignited with AFP Andrés Quintero, a 42-year-old restaurateur.
“I can not believe it, it is not possible, Diego cannot be dead”, cried a man in tears leaving the presidential palace supported by his relatives. Members of the family and active or retired players, including teammates of the Argentine captain at the 1986 World Cup, had gone to the fiery chapel in privacy before it opened to the public at 6 a.m. local (9 a.m. GMT).
In the district of Boca in Buenos Aires, but also in Europe in Naples and Barcelona, high places of the career of the “Pibe de Oro” (“golden kid”), the emotion seized the anonymous and the big names. of the round ball, from Pelé to Lionel Messi, a few hours after the announcement of the death of the 1986 world champion.
In Argentina the emotion is immense. Thousands of admirers gathered during the night near the stadiums of the clubs where Maradona officiated in Argentina: in Buenos Aires (Argentinos Juniors and Boca Juniors), Rosario (Newell’s Old Boys) as well as in La Plata, where he coached. the formation of Gimnasia until her death.
“Diego, you are my life, you are the joy of my heart,” chanted the crowd in unison, the faces of many covered with tears. And the turmoil is global, symbol of the aura of the deceased: in India, yet land of cricket, the state of Kerala declared two days of official mourning and a hotel where the Argentinian had stayed was transformed into a mausoleum.
In Naples, where Maradona, a former club icon, had offered Napoli the only two league titles in its history (1987 and 1990), supporters sang songs to his glory in front of the enclosure gates of the San Paolo stadium, which were decked out with blue-white scarves, flowers, candles and stencils bearing the effigy of the number 10. The enclosure could soon bear the name of the deceased player, the municipality having already mentioned this idea.
If the planet knew his fragile health, the news of the death of Diego Maradona has led to a deluge of sadness in the world of football, where only the Brazilian Pelé (80 years) competes in the informal ranking of the greatest in history .
Heads of State from many countries have also sent messages of condolence, proof that Maradona has marked the spirits everywhere, by its exploits and its excesses, oscillating between grandeur and flamboyance on the one hand, decay, drugs and controversies of the other. In Italy, the sports daily La Gazzetta dello sport regrets “the death of the god of football”. “God is dead”, resumes in chorus the French daily L’Equipe.
Even England, where Diego Maradona left a controversial image because of his famous goal of the hand against the English in quarterfinals of the World Cup-1986 (the “hand of God”, in the words of Maradona), salutes the genius of little playmaker.
“Skip the cheating – if you really love football, then you love Diego Maradona”, concludes the prestigious British daily The Times. Very weakened after surgery for a hematoma to the skull in early November, Maradona died “of secondary acute pulmonary edema and exacerbated chronic heart failure”, according to preliminary results of the autopsy.
The life of Maradona, born October 30, 1960, has been punctuated by many health problems related to excesses of all kinds that sometimes made him flirt with death. As in 2000 during a heart attack following an overdose or in 2004 during a second cardiac arrest when he weighed more than 100 kilos.
Maradona had overcome her addiction to hard drugs several years ago but continued to use alcohol, medication with tranquilizers and anti-anxiety medications. He appeared very depressed when he last appeared in public on his 60th birthday, and his lawyer Matias Morla had revealed he was going through a period of depression.