Grieving fans filed past Diego Maradona’s coffin in Argentina today as the country says farewell to the flawed football genius who died of a heart attack on Wednesday at the age of 60.
Thousands of mourners streamed past Maradona’s body at the presidential palace in Buenos Aires, clapping, pumping their fists and throwing flowers, flags and football shirts at the foot of the casket.
The coffin, which arrived in an ambulance early this morning and was covered in an Argentinian flag and Maradona’s signature number 10 shirt, is lying in state at the palace in a three-day spectacle of national mourning.
Maradona’s family and closest friends came at dawn before the start of the public wake, before scuffles briefly broke out as crowds jostled to enter and police had to hold people back.
Others gathered last night outside the Buenos Aires stadium where Maradona began his career and which has since been renamed in his honour, setting up a makeshift shrine to celebrate the legendary World Cup winner.
His death has also been keenly felt in Europe, especially in Naples where he steered an unfashionable side to two Italian league titles and where fans let off flares in tribute outside the stadium last night.
In Britain, where he is best remembered for his ‘Hand of God’ goal against England in 1986 – an act of brazen cheating followed only minutes later by one of the greatest goals in football history – a minute’s silence took place ahead of Liverpool’s Champions League match on Wednesday night.
Regarded by some as the greatest player of all time, Maradona combined awesome footballing ability with a flair for showmanship and a turbulent personal life marked by drug and alcohol problems.
An autopsy report leaked to Argentine media said he died in his sleep after suffering heart failure, only two weeks after leaving hospital following surgery to remove a blood clot on his brain.
Medics also detected dilated cardiomyopathy, a medical condition in which the heart muscle becomes weakened and enlarged and cannot pump enough blood to the rest of the body.
His nephew Johnny Esposito was the last person to see him alive, according to the report, before doctors with an appointment to see him went to his estate on Wednesday and found him unresponsive.
Public procession: Flags, flowers and football shirts are thrown at the foot of Maradona’s casket today as thousands of mourners file past the coffin to play their last respects to Argentina’s greatest football hero
On display: Mourners clapped, pumped their fists and threw football shirts and flags as they filed past the coffin at the presidential palace where it will lie in state for three days
Diego Maradona’s coffin is lifted out of an ambulance and taken into the Casa Rosada presidential palace in Buenos Aires in the early hours of this morning after the football legend died on Wednesday at the age of 60
Mourners embrace as they wait to see Maradona’s casket at the presidential palace in Buenos Aires on Thursday morning
A fan wearing an Argentina number 10 shirt in tribute to Maradona cries at a gathering outside the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium in Buenos Aires where the football legend began his career as a young player
Scuffles briefly broke out near the presidential palace today as crowds jostled to enter and police had to hold people back
Thousands of people, many wearing the blue and white Argentina strip, gathered at the palace to see Maradona’s casket
Grieving fans let off flares at the Argentinos Juniors stadium where Maradona began his professional career in the 1970s
Football founds surround the hearse carrying Diego Maradona’s coffin to an undertaker in Buenos Aires on Wednesday
Flowers, posters and other items are left at a makeshift shrine outside the stadium named after Maradona in Buenos Aires
Maradona’s finest hour: Lifting the World Cup after inspiring Argentina to victory in the 1986 tournament which included his infamous ‘Hand of God’ goal in the quarter-final against England
LAST PICTURE: Maradona’s death comes just three weeks after he underwent surgery on a blood clot in his brain (pictured), and less than a month after he turned 60
‘God is dead’: World media leads tributes
Maradona’s face dominated the back pages – and many front pages – of world newspapers this morning after the football legend’s death in Argentina.
Adapting his most famous phrase, many headlines spoke of Maradona being in the ‘hands of God’ – or saw the man as a deity in his own right.
French sports magazine L’Equipe had a full-page cover of Maradona with the headline: ‘God is dead’.
Others, including Spanish newspaper AS, combined his number 10 shirt with the Spanish word for God to make the word D10S – or alternatively used the word for goodbye to make AD10S.
The image of Maradona’s greatest triumph, winning the 1986 World Cup with Argentina, was also a dominant theme, while some Spanish papers highlighted his spell at Barcelona.
Spain’s Marca newspaper also ran with a touching quote of Maradona’s which read: ‘If I am reborn, I want to be a footballer. And I want to be Diego Armando Maradona again. I am a player who has made people happy, and that is enough for me.’
L’Equipe’s front page on Thursday pays tribute to Maradona with ‘God is dead’ on the front
Three days of mourning have been declared by the Argentinian president Alberto Fernandez.
‘You took us to the top of the world. You made us immensely happy. You were the greatest of all,’ the president said. ‘Thanks for having existed, Diego. We will miss you for a lifetime.’
The Argentinian Pope Francis also paid tribute to a man he had met several times at the Vatican, while official Holy See media described Maradona as ‘football’s poet’.
‘The Pope was informed about the death of Diego Maradona, he recalls the times he met him in these past years with affection, and he is remembering him in his prayers,’ a spokesman said.
Maradona is survived by five children, including his daughters Dalma, 33, and Ganina, 31, by his first and only wife Claudia Villafane, 58, to whom he was married from 1984 to 2004.
He had his youngest son Diego Fernando with his long-term girlfriend Veronica Ojeda in 2013; while he only acknowledged Diego Junior, 34, and daughter Jana, 23, in the last five years, both born after short flings.
Paramedics made an unsuccessful attempt to revive him after they arrived at the rented house in the gated residential estate of San Andres north of Buenos Aires he had moved to after leaving hospital following his operation on November 11.
Public prosecutor John Broyad, speaking outside San Andres as the body was taken to a nearby morgue,said: ‘Diego Armando Maradona died around 12pm local time. The forensic police began their work at 4pm.
‘No signs of any criminality or violence have been detected. The autopsy is being carried out to determine beyond any doubt the cause of death but we can say at this stage that everything is pointing to natural causes.’
Family members were summoned to Maradona’s home north of the Argentine capital before his death was announced.
Maradona, who only turned 60 on October 30, spelled out while he was still alive the message he wanted engraved on his tombstone.
The football legend gave an interview 15 years ago in which he revealed that ‘getting old with his grandchildren would mean a peaceful death’ for him.
Asked what he would say in the cemetery to himself, he said: ‘Thanks for having played football because it’s the sport that gave me most happiness and freedom and it’s like having touched the sky with my hand. Thanks to the ball.
‘Yes, I would put on the tombstone, ‘Thanks to the ball’.’
A hearse carrying Maradona’s body was escorted by police to the medical examiner’s office as fans lined the surrounding streets to catch a glimpse of it on Wednesday afternoon.
Thousands of fans later poured onto the streets in Argentina, many at the entrance to the football club in Buenos Aires that Maradona had managed since September last year, Club de Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata.
They hung up a banner with the legend’s face painted across it and an image of his mother Dalma Salvadora Franco.
Fans wave their shirts in tribute to Maradona last night as they gathered by the Obelisk in the Argentinian capital
Mourners sit in contemplation next to a shrine in Buenos Aires where candles were lit and football shirts left in tribute
Admirers also gathered at the door of the morgue where Maradona’s body was taken after he was found dead on Wednesday
A crowd of fans – some of them wearing the colours of Argentinian team Boca Juniors where Maradona played for part of his career – gather near the presidential palace last night ahead of Maradona’s wake
The Boca Juniors stadium was lit up in the team’s colours in tribute to Maradona who used to play for the Argentinian team
In Naples, fans let off flares outside the San Paolo stadium where Maradona steered the team to two Italian league titles
A woman wearing an Argentina number 10 shirt holds her head in grief as she gathers with other fans to pay tribute in Buenos Aires’ La Paternal neighbourhood
Argentinian football fans pay tribute to their fallen hero on Wednesday following news of the World Cup winner’s death
A visibly emotional fan attends a vigil for Maradona in front of the Boca Juniors stadium where Maradona once played
In England, players held a minute’s silence before Liverpool’s Champions League game against Atalanta on Wednesday night
Argentina’s flag was flying at half mast at the country’s embassy in London today following the death of Diego Maradona
In the Buenos Aires town of Villa Devoto where Maradona grew up, his former neighbours placed flags on their balconies as commentary from his World Cup goals blared from loudspeakers.
Fans gathered to exchange anecdotes about Maradona, with one 60-year-old woman recalling how he would escape from his childhood home.
‘This was a poor area when Maradona lived here. The streets were filled with rock,’ she said. ‘He never forgot about his roots.’
A man sitting in the stands at the stadium where Maradona debuted as a 15-year-old for Argentina Juniors on October 20, 1976 recalled being there on the day and said he was ‘a star’.
‘The truth is that football has died,’ he said. ‘The truth is he had the life that he had. No one can censor it. It was difficult being Diego, coming out from where he grew up.’
Brazilian legend Pele, 80, constantly compared with Maradona in the debate over football’s greatest player, said he hoped they would one day ‘play together in the sky’.
Argentina’s Lionel Messi – another of the all-time greats often mentioned in the same breath as Maradona – said last night: ‘He leaves us, but he is not gone because Diego is eternal.’
Cristiano Ronaldo, often seen as a rival to Messi in today’s equivalent of the Maradona-Pele debate, said that Maradona was ‘one of the best ever’.
‘An unrivalled magician. He departs too soon but leaves a legacy with no limits and an emptiness that will never be filled,’ Ronaldo said.
A minute’s silence was held before Wednesday night’s Champions League games in Europe, while in Naples, where Maradona played in the 1980s, the city mayor called for the local stadium to be renamed.
‘We are already putting it together this morning, taking the first steps to dedicate Naples’ stadium to Maradona,’ said mayor Luigi De Magistris.
Fans were already outside the stadium late Wednesday and into Thursday morning waving banners, singing songs and lighting flares, even though gatherings are technically banned in the city because of coronavirus.
Mourners outside the morgue in Buenos Aires hold up football shirts and pictures of Maradona, with a placard incorporating his number 10 shirt into the word Dios, Spanish for God
Mourners sing slogans outside La Bombonera, the stadium of Boca Juniors where Maradona used to play
Soccer fans hold a vigil for Diego Maradona outside the stadium of Argentinos Juniors soccer club, where he started as a professional footballer, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Wednesday
People mourn Maradona’s death at the Obelisk in Buenos Aires last night after football authorities confirmed his passing
Thousands of Napoli fans gathered outside the San Paolo Stadium to pay their respects to the player who led them to Champions League glory
1986: Maradona’s Hand of God goal – inexplicably missed by the referee – opened the scoring against England in a politically-charged World Cup quarter-final four years after the Falklands War
Only minutes later, Maradona scored a mesmerising second goal – later named by FIFA as the greatest goal of the century. Argentina won the match 2-1 and went on to win the World Cup
1994: Maradona’s manic screaming celebration after scoring at the World Cup in the United States. He was dismissed soon after the match for testing positive for five variants of the banned stimulant ephedrine
Maradona has a first dance with his wife Claudia at the Luna Park in Buenos Aires in November 1989. The pair were officially married in 1984 but Maradona wanted to treat his wife to a lavish ceremony after the elder of their two daughters asked to see their wedding photo
Diego Maradona and Claudia Villafane stand in front of the altar during their wedding ceremony at Santisimo Sacramento Church in 1989
The fifth of eight children, Maradona was born in Lanús on October 30, 1960.
He was very close to his parents and siblings, a fact that was demonstrated during a 1990 interview during which he produced stacks of phone bills which showed he had spent $15,000 a month calling his family from Europe.
By the age of 10, Maradona had joined Los Cebollitas – the youth team of Argentinos Juniors, one of the biggest clubs in Argentina – leading them to an incredible 136-game unbeaten streak.
‘To see him play was pure bliss, true stardom,’ teammate Carlos Beltran said.
Nicknamed El Pibe de Oro, the Golden Boy, he mesmerised fans and players with his mastery of the ball, juggling with both feet and darting across the pitch as he dodged and weaved through the world’s best defences.
‘Everything he was thinking in his head, he made it happen with his feet,’ said Salvatore Bagni, who played with Maradona in Naples.
Maradona made his professional debut for Argentinos Juniors aged 15, then moved to Boca Juniors for a year before heading to Barcelona for what was then a world-record fee of £5million.
In 1984, he moved to Naples where he became a working-class hero, guiding the team to the only two Italian league titles that it has ever won while consorting with the Italian mafia.
Maradona with his wife Claudia and daughters Dalma and Ganina
Maradona, left, greets Pope Francis in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, ahead of an inter-religious match for peace in September 2014
Soccer legends Diego Maradona (left) and Pele rest on a hammock during a reception in Rio de Janeiro, May 14, 1995.
Maradona with wife Claudia and their daughters Ganina and Dalma in Seville, Spain, in 1992
Argentina’s triumph at the 1986 World Cup was his greatest moment of triumph, but it also provided his greatest moment of notoriety – the ‘Hand of God’ goal against England in the quarter-final.
In a politically-charged encounter four years after the Falklands War, Maradona used his fist to flick the ball past England goalkeeper Peter Shilton in an act of deception which inexplicably fooled the referee.
‘It was scored a little bit with the head of Diego and a little with the hand of God,’ he later said, coining one of the most memorable phrases in football history.
Just minutes later, he spectacularly tore through England’s defence to score a second goal in what was later declared by FIFA as the greatest goal of the century.
Argentina won the game 2-1, and seven days later Maradona held the World Cup trophy aloft after leading his team to victory over West Germany in the final at Mexico’s Azteca Stadium.
Four years later, he was back in the final against the same opponents, but this time the Germans won and by now Maradona’s career was on the decline – and would become overshadowed by drug problems.
Maradona failed a doping test in 1991 and was banned for 15 months, acknowledging his longtime cocaine addiction.
In 1994, he failed another test for stimulants and was thrown out of the World Cup in the United States, where his manic scream at the camera after scoring for Argentina was another memorable image of his career.
People hang a poster of Maradona outside the Boca Juniors stadium in Buenos Aires on Wednesday
Fans wearing masks hold up a Maradona flag outside the San Paolo stadium in Naples which is set to be renamed in his honour
People light flares as they gather under a mural depicting soccer legend Diego Maradona, in Naples, Italy, Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020
Police officers outside Maradona’s home on outskirts of Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Wednesday
In 1998 – a year after he had retired from professional football – the icon received a suspended prison sentence of two years and 10 months following an incident in which he shot an air rifle at reporters.
In retirement, Maradona frequented Boca matches as a raucous one-man cheering section, but his health problems deteriorated and his weight ballooned.
In 2000, in what doctors said was a brush with death, he was hospitalized in the Uruguayan resort of Punta del Este with a heart pumping at less than half its capacity. Blood and urine samples turned up traces of cocaine.
After another emergency hospitalization in 2004, Maradona was counseled for drug abuse and in September of that year traveled to Cuba where he was visited by his friend, revolutionary leader Fidel Castro.
In Cuba, Maradona took to playing golf and smoking cigars. He frequently praised Castro and Che Guevara who fought with Castro in the Cuban revolution.
In 2005, he underwent gastric bypass in Colombia, shedding more than 100lbs before appearing as host of a wildly popular Argentine television talk show which featured Pele, Mike Tyson and Hollywood celebrities.
But the health issues continued for the rest of his life, including treatment for alcohol abuse in 2007 and a series of more recent operations culminating in the blood clot surgery three weeks ago.
Maradona at home by his swimming pool in the 1980s (left) and toasting with friends and business associates on a trip to China in 2003
Maradona wears a Union Jack t-shirt as he poses with British rock group Queen backstage in the 1980s
A young Maradona plays on the beach with his brothers in Argentina
Maradona also became more outspoken in retirement, sniping frequently at former coaches and players and joining a protest alongside late Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez to denounce US president George W. Bush.
He also had a spell as manager of the Argentina team, but his tactics, selection and attention to detail were all questioned and the team was badly beaten by Germany at the 2010 World Cup.
In recent years, Maradona, reduced to hobbling by the ravages of his career and lifestyle, had coached in the UAE, Mexico and Argentina without ever hitting the heights of his playing days.
Victor Hugo Morales, Argentina’s most popular soccer broadcaster, said Maradona will ultimately be remembered for a thrilling style of play that has never been duplicated.
‘He has been one of the great artists of my time. Like great masters of music and painting, he has defied our intellect and enriched the human spirit,’ Morales said. ‘Nobody has thrilled me more and left me in such awe as Diego.’
Maradona left hospital on November 11 just eight days after being admitted for the emergency brain surgery.
The footballer was driven away from the private Olivos Clinic as hundreds of fans of photographers tried to get a glimpse of him as he was discharged to his home. That was where he died on Wednesday.
Police cars are seen outside the house where Diego Maradona was recovering from surgery, in Tigre, on the outskirt of Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Wednesday
NOVEMBER 11: An ambulance carrying Maradona leaves the clinic where he underwent brain surgery, in Olivos, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires
Maradona’s ‘family XI’ battle for his millions: Footballer’s five known children ‘are likely to feud with his six rumoured offspring’ for a share of his will
By GERARD COUZENS FOR MAILONLINE
Diego Maradona‘s death could spark a family feud over his estate as he leaves behind five children he recognised as his and six others he has been linked to.
Before he died one of his daughters joked he could make up a starting eleven with his kids after a 23-year-old Argentinian was named as the latest woman fighting to prove she was his daughter.
Maradona had recognised two sons and three daughters by four different women – including his ex-wife Claudia Villafane and former long-term partner Veronica Ojeda – as his own.
Giannina Maradona, one of the former footballer’s two daughters by Villafane, joked last year after the names of three children said to be his in Cuba were made public: ‘Just three more needed for the team of 11. You can do it!!!’
In October last year a 23-year-old brunette called Magali Gil emerged as the latest possible member of Maradona’s brood.
In October last year a 23-year-old brunette called Magali Gil (pictured) emerged as the latest possible member of Maradona’s brood
Popular Argentinian TV programme Intrusos said she had a young daughter which would have made the former Naples and Barcelona star a grandfather if he was confirmed as her father.
She is understood to have launched legal proceedings in April last year to try to prove her blood link.
Who are Maradona’s recognised children and who are the rumoured offspring?
- Diego Junior, 34
- Jana, 23
- Dalma, 32
- Gianinna, 30
- Diego Fernando, seven
- ‘The Cuban trio’ – Joana, Lu and Javielito
- Magali Gil, 23
- Santiago Lara, 19
Journalist Adrian Pallares told Intrusos: ‘Her mother didn’t raise her but her adoptive family, who gave her all their love.
‘The time came when she discovered she didn’t belong to that family and that her father could be Diego Armando Maradona.’
In February the she broke her silence in Argentina to confirm the situation had not moved forward and begged the football legend to agree to a DNA test.
She had already confirmed on Italian TV she had been adopted as a youngster and her birth mum contacted her at the start of 2019 to tell her who her real father was.
Magali told Argentinian journalist Tomas Dente, speaking at the start of the year for the first time in her home nation: ‘Sadly we still haven’t been able to fix a date for the DNA test.
‘I’d like to think that the predisposition Diego’s lawyer Matias Morla spoke about last December when we met is still there so this can be resolved as quickly as possible and in the best way possible.
‘I’m anxious and worried at what’s happening because this is something which is key for me, my identity and my past.
‘I’m trying to stay calm and understand that we’re talking about Diego Maradona who I know has got a packed diary.
‘I’d just like to urge him to realise there’s a person who’s waiting and needs him to be able to resolve my identify and put an end to this search.’
The Magali bombshell first emerged a month after Santiago Lara, who comes from the same Argentinian city of La Plata where Maradona managed Gimnasia y Esgrima, made a renewed TV appeal for the football legend to recognise him as his son.
The Magali bombshell first emerged a month after Santiago Lara (pictured), who comes from the same Argentinian city of La Plata where Maradona managed Gimnasia y Esgrima, made a renewed TV appeal for the football legend to recognise him as his son
The teenager, whose waitress mother Natalia Garat died aged 23 from lung cancer in 2006 and was raised by her ex-boyfriend Marcelo Lara, spoke for the first time in 2016 of his fight to find out who his real father is.
He said at the time: ‘I’ve been told my real father is supposedly Diego Maradona. My dad is always going to be Marcelo Lara but what I’ve been told is that my real father is supposedly Diego Maradona.
‘I think I look like him, the face, the curls, everything. I look at Marcelo and I know we’re not alike. It’s not easy to wake up in the morning with that feeling.’
‘I found out after I went past a newspaper stand near my house aged 13 and saw a magazine front cover with Maradona’s face on it and mine pixellated underneath.
‘I was left in a state of shock because I didn’t know what I was doing in the magazine. I went running home and asked Marcelo what was going on and he explained everything.
‘He told me my mum was well-known on the modelling circuit when she was younger and he told me he had the feeling I wasn’t his son.
‘He told me a DNA test was asked for but was never forthcoming.’
Maradona’s lawyer Matias Morla said months before the footballer’s death he would assume his responsibilities as Santiago’s father if the blood link was confirmed.
Maradona’s lawyer Matias Morla (pictured today) said months before the footballer’s death he would assume his responsibilities as Santiago’s father if the blood link was confirmed
Morla has previously been quoted as saying ‘Everyone knows that in Argentina there’s Santiago and another person that people are talking about’, although other media in the South American country have speculated the 11th child that would make up Diego’s football team is a fourth Cuban.
The Cuban trio whose names have already been made public are Joana, Lu and Javielito, born after Maradona moved to the Caribbean island in February 2000 to fight drink and drug addictions.
Mr Morla, who admitted in October 2018 the ex-footballer had been ‘naughty’ in Cuba and confessed: ‘There’s going to be a lot of Maradonas, a lot, even if some people don’t like it’, has confirmed the trio met him during the funeral of Fidel Castro.
Over recent years Maradona had recognised his grown-up son Diego Junior, born from an extra-marital affair with Italian model Cristina Sinagra, and 23-year-old Jana who met her dad for the first time nearly six years ago following a court fight by her mum Valeria Sabalain.
Maradona also had two daughters by his ex-wife, 32-year-old Dalma and 30-year-old Gianinna, and a seven-year-old son called Diego Fernando by former girlfriend Veronica Ojeda.
Several Spanish-language memes went viral after Maradona’s lawyer revealed the three Cuban children.
One said: ‘If you were born between 1980 and 2019 and you have extraordinary footballing skills, contact us. You could be a son of Diego Maradona.’