Argentine legend Diego Maradona who scored the “Hand of God” goal in 1986 against England and led his country to the 1986 World Cup title before later struggling with cocaine use and obesity, has died at the age of 60.
Maradona told France Football magazine last month ahead of his 60th birthday that it was his dream to “score another goal against the English, this time with the right hand.”
“The Argentine Football Association, through its President Claudio Tapia, expresses its deepest sorrow for the death of our legend, Diego Armando Maradona. You will always be in our hearts,” The Argentine Football Association tweeted on Wednesday.
Argentina’s President Alberto Fernandez has announced three days of national mourning for the loss of the superstar regarded as one of the greatest football players in history.
“You took us to the top of the world. You made us feel incredibly happy. You were the greatest of all. Thank you for having existed,” Fernandez tweeted.
Aleksander Čeferin, president of the Union of European Football Associations, UEFA, said a in a statement;
“He will go down in history as someone who set football alight and thrilled fans young and old with his brilliance and skill.”
Maradona’s spokesman, Sebastián Sanchi, said the iconic soccer player died on Wednesday after suffering a heart attack at his home in Tigre, Buenos Aires, Argentina. His death came two weeks after being released from a hospital in Buenos Aires following brain surgery.
The No. 10 he wore on his jersey became synonymous with him, same with Pele, the iconic Brazilian football player with whom Maradona was regularly paired as the best of all time in the history of the game.
In a statement, Pele said he had lost “a dear friend.”
“There is much more to say, but for now may God give his family strength,” Pelé said. “One day, I hope, we will play soccer together in the sky.”
“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.
Maradona, who was hospitalized near death in 2000 and again in 2004 for heart problems blamed on cocaine, later said he overcame the drug problem. Cocaine, he once said famously, had proven to be his “toughest rival.”
He made his professional debut for Argentinos Juniors on October 20, 1976, ten days before his 16th birthday when he entered the pitch wearing the number 16 jersey to play against Talleres de Córdoba. He became the youngest player in the history of Argentine Primera División.
Watch Maradona “Hand of God” goal, 1986 World cup
Maradona, who became a household name in football, ended his playing career back in Argentina in 1997, returning to Boca. He had a brief and controversy-packed spell as Argentine national team coach from 2008 to 2010 before club coaching in the Middle East and Mexico
During his time, Maradona made 694 appearances and scored 354 goals for club and country combined, with a goalscoring average of 0.51.
Maradona is survived by his longtime partner, Veronica Ojeda, two daughters, two sons, and his former wife, Claudia Villafane.