BUENOS AIRES (AFP) – The world yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of the death of Diego Maradona, regarded by many as the best footballer of all time and a man adored in his native Argentina despite, or perhaps because of, his human flaws.
Argentinian club matches observed a minute of silence as players arranged themselves in a “10” formation on the pitch to honour Maradona’s jersey number, while special masses were held.
One took place in the Buenos Aires slum where he grew up, while in Naples, Italy, where he spent part of his career, two statues of the striker were unveiled.
“We’ll miss you for the rest of our lives,” said the Argentinian Football League on the eve of the anniversary, with a video tribute to the man nicknamed “Pibe de Oro” (Golden Kid).
Maradona died of a heart attack in November last year at the age of 60, weeks after undergoing brain surgery for a blood clot.
His death shocked fans around the world, and tens of thousands queued to file past his coffin, draped in the Argentinian flag, at the presidential palace in Buenos Aires during three days of national mourning.
He may be dead, but in Argentina, Maradona is everywhere from mural frescos that portray him as a deity, to television series about his life and even a religion bearing his name.
His two goals – one of them being the “Hand of God” – in the 1986 World Cup quarter-finals which saw Argentina triumph over England made him an instant hero as he led the team to their second World Cup.
His rags-to-riches story, stellar sporting achievements, complicated life and dramatic death has entrenched his place in the Argentinian psyche.
In the cities, Maradona’s name is memorialised in countless graffiti: “Diego lives”, “10 Eternal” and “D10S” – a play on words with the Spanish word for god, “Dios”, and Maradona’s famous jersey number.
Murals in Buenos Aires depict him with angel wings, as a patron saint complete with halo and sceptre, or back here on Earth, kissing the World Cup.
There is an ongoing court case that contends Maradona’s treatment post-surgery was rife with “deficiencies and irregularities”, leading to his eventual death.
This, along with an inheritance dispute involving two of his daughters and an accusation by a Cuban woman who had an affair with Maradona as a minor 20 years ago, saying the former Napoli star had abused and raped her, has ensured he continues to dominate the headlines in the country.
On the fallen icon, Argentinian daily La Nacion said: “A year after his death, Diego, a creator of happiness, continues to also cause suffering.
“Through the sadness over his death, because we loved him so much. And through the evidence of his self-destruction. The great contradiction between public happiness and private suffering.”