Fans pay homage to Maradona with shirts and chants

Show of love: Argentina’s supporters wave a jersey of Argentina’s Lionel Messi next to an effigy depicting Diego Maradona. — AFP

JAVIER Maluf will quietly put on a shirt worn by Diego Maradona against England, but other fans have more noisy plans for today’s second anniversary of the death of the flawed genius.

Argentina’s legion of supporters may also be praying to the sporting gods that the late football great can still inspire his country to victory over Mexico tomorrow to keep their hopes in Qatar alive.

Maluf is like many Argentina fans who have never fully recovered from Maradona’s death from a heart attack at the age of 60.

The shirt that Maradona wore during a game against England at Wembley in 1980 is the prized item in Maluf’s collection of 1,000 game-worn football jerseys that he estimates is worth US$1mil (RM4.5mil).

“I will put it on for a while as a sign of respect,” he said at his Doha home, where the shirts and other souvenirs are kept.

“We all know his story but we all know his impact on the game.” A respected memorabilia sleuth, Maluf, 56, also has a blood-stained Argentina shirt worn by Mario Kempes in a 1978 World Cup game against France.

The Maradona shirt is on display at the 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum during the World Cup but Maluf is among fans who believe that it belongs in Argentina. “It would be good if it goes to Argentina one day, so that all the public can see it and feel the importance,” he said.

More than 30,000 Argentina fans are in Qatar for this year’s tournament and while many worship current number 10 Lionel Messi, Maradona’s name still carries an almost mystical force.

Many have been on a pilgrimage to a giant Maradona mural near the Khalifa stadium in Doha.

At Argentina’s first game – a shock 2-1 defeat by Saudi Arabia – there were Maradona masks, banners and shirts on display in the stadium.

Laura Valero, who borrowed US$8,000 (RM40,000) to make the trip to Qatar, said she was “recovering” from the defeat. “I will be wearing a Maradona shirt because you have to believe in something,” she said of the looming anniversary and game. — AFP

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World Cup , FIFA


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