Tens of thousands of fans, many crying but eager to honor Diego Maradona, laid to rest the coffin of Argentina’s most iconic star on Thursday.
Fans kissed as they passed Maradona’s wooden case in the central lobby of the presidential Casa Rosada, some slapping their chests with clenched fists and shouting, “Let’s go Diego.”
It was the kind of honor usually given to heads of state, but few heads of state evoked such faith or passion.
On the way, the line to see Maradona’s coffin was over 20 square meters long and riots broke out at least twice as fans who wanted to see the coffin clashed with security forces in front of the presidential palace, interrupting the flow of visitors.
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The coffin was covered with the flag of Argentina and the number 10 he wore famous for the national team. Dozens of other football team shirts tossed by crying guests were scattered over and around the coffin.
Maradona died Wednesday of a heart attack at a home outside Buenos Aires where he recovered from a stroke on November 3.
Open visit, started at 6:15 a.m. after a few hours of privacy for family and close friends. The first to say goodbye were his daughters and close family members. His ex-wife Claudia Villafañe came with his daughters Maradona Dalma and Gianinna. Later came Verónica Ojeda, also his ex-wife, with their son Dieguito Fernando.
Jana, whom Maradona recognized as his daughter just a few years ago, also attended the funeral.
Then came former teammates of the 1986 World Cup award-winning team, including Oscar Rogeri. Other Argentine players, such as Boca Juniors’ Carlos Tévez, also showed up.
Early in the morning, some fans became impatient as police tried to maintain order by throwing bottles and pieces of metal fencing at police outside the presidential office in the heart of Buenos Aires. Officers at one point used tear gas to try to control them.
Clashes erupted again early in the afternoon as police fired rubber bullets at fans trying to move forward.
Argentine president Alberto Fernández appeared at noon and put in the box a shirt of Argentinos Juniors, Maradona’s first club as a professional.
With tears in his eyes, Fernández also put on two handkerchiefs by the human rights organization Madres de Plaza de Mayo, which they wore for years to protest the disappearance of their children under the military dictatorship of Argentina between 1976 and 1983.
Maradona, an outspoken leftist with a picture of Argentine Revolutionary Che Guevara tattooed on his biceps, was a friend of Madras and other human rights groups.
The lines began to form outside the Casa Rosada just hours after the confirmation of Maradona’s death and increased to several blocks. Among those who attended were the famous fans of the barrabravas of Boca Juniors, one of his former clubs.
The first fan to visit was Nahuel de Lima, 30, who used crutches to move around with a disability.
“He made Argentina known all over the world. Whoever talks about Maradona also talks about Argentina,” de Lima told the Associated Press. “Diego is the people. … Today shirts, political flags do not matter. We came to say goodbye to a wonderful man who gave us a lot of joy.”
Maradona’s football genius, personal struggles and simple personality resonated deeply with the Argentines.
He led an underdog team to glory in the 1986 World Cup, winning the title after scoring two stunning goals in a semi-final match against England, shocking a country that felt humiliated by its defeat to the British in the recent Falklands War. even from the brutal military dictatorship.
Many were deeply moved by the struggles of a man who rose from poverty to fame and fortune and fell into drug, drink and food abuse. He remained a pagan in the nation with football as “Pibe de Oro” or “Golden Boy”.
Lidia and Estela Villalba shouted near the exit of the lobby. They both had a Boca Juniors shirt and an Argentine flag on their shoulders.
“We told him we loved him, that he was the greatest,” they said at the same time.
Those waiting to enter the Casa Rosada wore masks mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but struggled to maintain social distance.
Social worker Rosa Noemí Monje, 63, said she and others overseeing health protocols understood the feeling of the moment.
“It is impossible to ask them from a distance. “We treat them with respect and offer them disinfectants and face masks,” he said. Monje also paid the last tribute to Maradona.
“I told him: always in victory, Diego,” Monje said as she cried.
A huge mural of Maradona’a face was painted on the tiles covering Plaza de Mayo, near Casa Rosada, which was decorated with a huge black ribbon at the entrance.