Argentines lined up for hours on Thursday to say goodbye to soccer great Diego Maradona and walk past his casket lying in state at the Casa Rosada presidential palace, draped in the national flag and his famous no. 10 shirt.
In Italy, crowds tied hundreds of blue and white scarfs to the railings outside his former club Napoli, while in France, sports paper L’Equipe’s front page blared out: “God is dead”.
Fans across the world mourned Maradona, who lived a life marred by struggles with addiction and died aged 60 following a heart attack at home on Wednesday.
In Argentina, three days of national mourning were called for the player who led the country to a 1986 World Cup win and is revered with cult-like status. Tens of thousands took to the streets, despite fears over the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving flowers and messages at his childhood home.
The star’s family is planning to hold the burial on Thursday evening at the Bella Vista cemetery on the outskirts of Buenos Aires where his parents are also interred, a government source said. A source at the cemetery confirmed that the burial had been scheduled for 6pm local time, but said it could also be delayed to Friday morning.
Starting at dawn, thousands of fans formed a snaking line estimated at over a mile (1.61 km) long through the streets of Buenos Aires near the central Plaza de Mayo after a night of mourning and reminiscing. Some scuffles broke out as some tried to get inside the palace to see their hero’s casket.
“Maradona for me is the greatest thing that happened to me in life. I love him as much as my father and it’s like my old man died,” Cristian Montelli, 22, a fan of the star’s former club Boca Juniors said with tears in his eyes.