Argentine legend Diego Maradona died on Wednesday at the age of 60 at his home on the outskirts of Buenos Aires following a heart attack.
Matias Morla, Maradona’s longtime agent, confirmed the news to Efe news agency. Maradona’s spokesman, Sebastian Sanchi, said he died Wednesday of the heart attack, two weeks after being released from a hospital in Buenos Aires following brain surgery.
A statement from the Argentina Football Association read: “The Argentine Football Association, through its President Claudio Tapia, expresses its deepest pain at the death of our legend, Diego Armando Maradona. You’ll always be in our hearts.”
Argentina President Alberto Fernandez also confirmed three days of national mourning following the news. Fernandez posted a photograph of himself on Twitter hugging Maradona with the message: “You took us to the highest place in the world. You made us immensely happy. You were the greatest of all. Thanks for existing, Diego. We are going to miss you the rest of our lives.”
One of the most famous moments in the history of the sport, the “Hand of God” goal, came when the diminutive Maradona punched the ball into England’s net during the 1986 World Cup quarterfinals.
Ahead of his 60th birthday in October, Maradona told France Football magazine that it was his dream to “score another goal against the English, this time with the right hand.”
Maradona also captivated fans around the world over a two-decade career with a bewitching style of play that was all his own.
Although his reputation was tarnished by his addictions and an ill-fated spell in charge of the national team, he remained idolised in football-mad Argentina as the “Pibe de Oro” or “Golden Boy.”
The No. 10 he wore on his jersey became synonymous with him, as it also had with Pele, the Brazilian great with whom Maradona was regularly paired as the best of all time.
The retired Brazilian star mourned the death of Maradona in a brief statement provided to Reuters by a representative.
“Certainly, one day we’ll kick a ball together in the sky above,” he said.
CONMEBOL, the South American Football Confederation on Wednesday announced that it would reschedule the Copa Libertadores match between Maradona’s former club in Argentina, Boca Juniors, and Internacional. The match will now be played on Dec. 2.
Per Sempre 💙
Ciao Diego pic.twitter.com/LzppqlBqLV
— Official SSC Napoli (@sscnapoli) November 25, 2020
Maradona had recently battled health issues and underwent emergency surgery for a subdural hematoma several weeks ago.
Born in 1960, Maradona captained Argentina to World Cup 1986 glory as well as reaching the final in 1990. At the height of his club career, at Napoli from 1984 to 1991, he helped the side win its only two Italian league titles. There were also notable lows, such as when he was kicked out of the 1994 World Cup after being found guilty of doping.
Napoli said on Wednesday the death was a “devastating blow” for both the city and the club. “We are in mourning,” club spokesman Nicola Lombardo said. “We feel like a boxer who has been knocked out. We are in shock.”
“Everyone is waiting for words from us. But what words could be possible for pain as strong as that we are currently experiencing? Now is the time for tears. Later, it will be words,” the club posted on its Twitter account.
“It is a very sad day for the football world,” Serie A president Paolo Dal Pino said in a statement. “Today, a legend of our sport has left us. One who made us dream and excited fans across the planet. For the next set of fixtures, we will remember him with a special initiative.”
UEFA confirmed to ESPN that there will be a minute’s silence before all Champions League matches on Wednesday and Europa League ties on Thursday.
Bold, fast and utterly unpredictable, Maradona was a master of attack, juggling the ball easily from one foot to the other as he raced upfield. Dodging and weaving with his low center of gravity, he shrugged off countless rivals and often scored with a devastating left foot, his most powerful weapon.
“Everything he was thinking in his head, he made it happen with his feet,” said Salvatore Bagni, who played with Maradona at Italian club Napoli.
A ballooning waistline slowed Maradona’s explosive speed later in his career and by 1991 he was snared in his first doping scandal when he admitted to a cocaine habit that haunted him until he retired in 1997, at 37.
Since ending his playing career in 1997, the ex-Napoli, Barcelona and Boca Juniors star battled a series of health issues. He was admitted to hospital in January 2019 with internal bleeding in the stomach. He also fell ill at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, where he was filmed passing out in an executive box at the Argentina-Nigeria game.
In 2004, he was hospitalised with severe heart and respiratory problems related to a long battle with drug addiction. He had undergone two gastric bypass operations to control his weight and received treatment for alcohol abuse.
Maradona was again hospitalized in early 2007 for acute hepatitis that his doctor blamed on excessive drinking and eating.
He made an unlikely return to the national team in 2008 when he was appointed Argentina coach, but after a quarterfinal exit at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, he was ousted — ultimately picking up another coaching job with the United Arab Emirates club Al Wasl.
“To see him play was pure bliss, true stardom,” teammate Carlos Beltran said. Maradona played from 1976-81 for first division club Argentinos Juniors, then went to Boca Juniors for a year before heading to Barcelona for a world-record $8 million.
In 1984, Barcelona sold him to Napoli, in Italy.
He remade its fortunes almost single-handedly, taking it to the 1987 Italian league championship for its first title in 60 years.
A year after losing the 1990 World Cup final to West Germany, Maradona moved to Spanish club Sevilla, but his career was on the decline.
He played five matches at Argentine club Newell’s Old Boys in 1994 before returning to Boca from 1995-97 — his final club and closest to his heart.
Drug problems overshadowed his final playing years.
Maradona failed a doping test in 1991 and was banned for 15 months, acknowledging his longtime cocaine addiction.
He failed another doping test for stimulants and was thrown out of the 1994 World Cup in the United States.
In retirement, Maradona frequented Boca matches as a raucous one-man cheering section and took part in worldwide charity, sporting and exhibition events.
But the already stocky forward quickly gained weight and was clearly short of breath as he huffed through friendly matches.
In 2000, in what doctors said was a brush with death, he was hospitalized in the Uruguayan resort of Punta del Este with a heart that doctors said was pumping at less than half its capacity. Blood and urine samples turned up traces of cocaine.
After another emergency hospitalisation in 2004, Maradona was counseled for drug abuse and in September of that year traveled to Cuba for treatment at Havana’s Center for Mental Health.
There he was visited by his friend, Cuban President Fidel Castro. In Cuba, Maradona took to playing golf and smoking cigars.
He frequently praised Castro and Argentine-born revolutionary “Che” Guevara, who fought with Castro in the Cuban revolution — even sporting a tattoo of Guevara on his right arm. Maradona said he got clean from drugs there and started a new chapter.
In 2005, he underwent gastric bypass in Colombia, shedding nearly 50 kilograms (more than 100 pounds) before appearing as host of a wildly popular Argentine television talk show.
On “10’s Night,” Maradona headed around a ball with Pele, interviewed boxer Mike Tyson and Hollywood celebrities, and taped a lengthy conversation with Castro in Cuba.
In retirement, Maradona also became more outspoken. He sniped frequently at former coaches, players — including Pele — and the pope.
He joined a left-wing protest train outside the Summit of the Americas in 2005, standing alongside Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to denounce the presence of then-President George W. Bush.
His outsider status made it all the more surprising when he was chosen as Argentina coach following Alfio Basile’s resignation.
He won his first three matches but his tactics, selection and attention to detail were all questioned after a 6-1 loss to Bolivia in World Cup qualifying equaled Argentina’s worst-ever margin of defeat.
Victor Hugo Morales, Argentina’s most popular football broadcaster, 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.”
Maradona is survived by his longtime partner, Veronica Ojeda, two daughters, two sons, and his former wife, Claudia Villafane.
Information from Reuters and The Associated Press was used in this report.