Diego Maradona … in his own league, otherworldly, a supreme genius, yet supremely flawed … he could warm up better than many could actually play the game … the ball was his, the game was his … the pleasure was ours.
— Twitter post
To borrow a Sinatra phrase, it’s Maradona’s world … we just live in it.
The football world has gone into mourning after the death of Argentinian football legend Diego Armando Maradona, with tributes pouring in from all over the globe, Al Jazeera reported.
Long considered one of the greatest players, if not the best, the 60-year-old superstar who led his country to a World Cup title in 1986 died on Wednesday after suffering a heart attack in the city of Tigre.
World Cup Winner, 4 x Footballer of the Year, UEFA Cup Winner, Italian Cup Winner, 2 x Italian Champion, Italian Super Cup Winner, Spanish Cup Winner, Spanish Super Cup Winner and Spanish League Cup Winner.
Yes, on the pitch, he was unrivalled. I’m sorry Besty, but you come in second. You too Pele, and Messi, and Cryuff, and Beckenbauer and Zidane.
Argentina President Alberto Fernandez declared three days of national mourning, expressing his sorrow for the loss and thanking Maradona “for having existed,” Al Jazeera reported.
“You took us to the top of the world. You made us immensely happy. You were the greatest of all. Thanks for having existed, Diego. We will miss you for a lifetime,” he said on Twitter.
Regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of the game, Maradona became a household name after inspiring his country to World Cup glory in 1986, CNN reported.
He took center stage at the tournament with a memorable performance against England where he scored an iconic goal that he later described as the “Hand of God.”
The diminutive forward out-jumped legendary keeper Peter Shilton and punched the ball into the net. Despite the obvious handball, the goal was allowed to stand because the referee did not see the foul, CNN reported.
Later in the game he scored one of the greatest goals in history after weaving his way past seven English defenders.
His glittering career was also marked by numerous controversies and his notorious lifestyle led to alcoholism and addiction.
Meanwhile in Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires, where he has long been worshipped as “El Dios,” the God, people began pouring onto the streets gathering in the San Andres neighbourhood where he lived, Al Jazeera reported.
Argentinian football superstar Leo Messi, widely seen as the best active player in the world, said that this was a “very sad day for all Argentines and football.”
“He has left us but he will never leave us because Diego is eternal. I will keep all the beautiful moments that I lived with him and would like to send my condolences to all his family and friends. RIP.”
Retired Brazilian football star Pele, considered by many as the only player to have come close to Maradona’s skill level, was among those to express his sorrow.
“Sad news today. I have lost a dear friend, and the world has lost a legend,” Pele, 80, wrote on Instagram, alongside a picture of Maradona hoisting the World Cup trophy in 1986.
“There is much more to say, but for now may God give his family strength. One day, I hope, we will play soccer together in the sky.
Maradona broke into professional soccer with Boca Juniors but went on to play for leading European clubs such as Barcelona and Napoli, CNN reported.
While his performances on the pitch dazzled, Maradona faced a number of demons off it, CNN reported.
During his time in Italy, he came into contact with the Camorra — the Neapolitan mafia — and struggled with addiction. He failed a drug test in 1991 and received a 15-month ban from the game.
Portugal and Juventus superstar Christiano Ronaldo described Maradona as an “unparalleled magician.”
“Today I say goodbye to a friend and the world says goodbye to an eternal genius. One of the best of our times. An unparalleled magician. He leaves too early but leaves a legacy without limits and a void that will never be filled. Rest in peace. You will never be forgotten,” he said on Instagram.
Victor Hugo Morales, Argentina’s most popular sportscaster, 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.”
Former England striker Gary Lineker hoped Maradona will now “finally find some comfort in the hands of God,” he said on Twitter, referencing the “hand of God” goal, Al Jazeera reported.
“By some distance the best player of my generation and arguably the greatest of all time,” he added, posting in another tweet a video showing the two players meeting in 2006.
Italian football club Napoli, where Maradona played from 1984-1991, said it was impossible to describe the sadness felt after the news of Maradona’s death broke.
“What words can we use [to describe] a sorrow as the one we are living through? Now is the moment of tears. Then there will be the moment for words,” it said on Twitter.
Maradona was adored in Napoli after taking the team to two Serie A titles. Videos on social media showed people in the southern city mourning the football star in front of murals.
Italian Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora, a native of Naples, also paid tribute.
“The death of Maradona is terrible news. He was more than a champion, he was a football genius, an absolute champion,” Spadafora said. “In an unrepeatable season he represented the dreams and hopes of the people of my city. Naples is crying tonight.”
French footballing great Michel Platini said, “a bit of our past has gone.”
“I am very sad. I am nostalgic for what was a wonderful era,” Platini, who starred for France in the 1980s and played for Juventus against Maradona’s Napoli, told French radio station RTL. “Diego left a mark on my life.”
Maradona also played for the Spanish team Barcelona for two years starting from 1982.
“Thank you for everything Diego. FC Barcelona expresses its deepest condolences regarding the death of Diego Armando Maradona, a player for our club (1982-84) and an icon of world football,” Barcelona said in a statement.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola paid tribute to Diego Maradona’s legacy to football.
“There are a few incredible players in all of history, he is one of them. For people of our generation, the World Cup in ’86 in Mexico was something which made this sport better.”
Vatican spokesman said Pope Francis “looks back with affection to the occasions of encounter in recent years and remembers it in prayer, as he has done in recent days since he learned of his health conditions.”
Sources: Al Jazeera, CNN Sports, Twitter, RTL, The Vatican, Instagram