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Argentine football legend Diego Maradona was laid to rest on Thursday (Nov 26) after a private funeral on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, local television images showed.

As darkness fell, he was interred after a simple religious ceremony attended by family and close friends in the leafy surrounds of the Bella Vista cemetery outside the capital amid a global outpouring of grief.

The death of Maradona at the age of 60 on Wednesday, following a heart attack, has sparked both mourning and celebrations of a true sporting star, who was a genius on the football field but lived a life marred by struggles with addiction.

The World Cup winner was taken by hearse late on Thursday afternoon to the cemetery where his parents are also interred.

The burial followed a day of high emotion that saw clashes between police and fans near the presidential palace in central Buenos Aires where Maradona lay in state in a closed casket for people to say their final farewells.

Thousands of people had surrounded the pink-hued Casa Rosada and there was a febrile atmosphere more akin to a rowdy football game than a formal wake, with fans clambering up the palace gates to get as close as possible to their hero.

The tensions eventually eased after his body was transferred by hearse to the cemetery, surrounded by a huge procession of police and others on motorbikes. Thousands of Argentines lined the roads as it passed on the hour-long journey to Bella Vista.

In Italy, crowds tied hundreds of blue-and-white scarves to the railings outside his former club Napoli, while in France, sports paper L’Equipe’s front page blared out: “God is dead”.

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, not all wearing masks, despite fears over the Covid-19 pandemic. Some left flowers and messages at his childhood home.

“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 supporter of the star’s former club Boca Juniors said with tears in his eyes after he had filed past the coffin.

“If I die young, hopefully upstairs I can play ball and watch a Boca game with him,” added Montelli, who had a tattoo of Maradona’s face on his leg.

Mile-long lines

During the day, Maradona’s body lay in state in a wooden coffin at the Casa Rosada presidential palace on the central Plaza de Mayo. It was covered with the blue-and-white national flag and an Argentina jersey with the number 10 that had been part of his nickname “D10S” – a play on “dios”, the Spanish word for God.

Starting at dawn on Thursday, thousands had formed a snaking line estimated at over a mile (1.6 km) long through the streets of Buenos Aires near the plaza, after a night of mourning and reminiscing.

But as the day wore on, fans queueing outside the palace grew increasingly impatient and some took over a courtyard inside the palace, where they chanted slogans.


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