BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AFP) – Diego Maradona, one of the greatest players of all time, died Wednesday at the age of 60, plunging his native Argentina and football fans around the world into mourning.
Renowned along with Pele as one of the finest players ever to grace the field, the Argentine World Cup-winning captain had undergone brain surgery this month and died of a heart attack, a member of his entourage told AFP.
Maradona will forever be remembered for his “Hand of God” goal against England in the 1986 World Cup quarterfinal in Mexico City, when he pushed the ball into the net.
Minutes later, he swerved through the helpless English defenders for a superb second goal, capping a victory that perfectly encapsulated the mixture of brilliant skill and often outrageous behavior that ran through his life.
He struggled with addiction to cocaine and alcohol and had been plagued by poor health in recent years.
Pele described Maradona as a “dear friend” and the 80-year-old Brazilian said he hoped they would “play together in the sky” one day.
Gary Lineker, who was in the England team defeated in 1986, said Maradona was “arguably the greatest of all time” but referred to that infamous goal by tweeting: “After a blessed but troubled life, hopefully he’ll finally find some comfort in the hands of God. #RipDiego.”
Lionel Messi led the tributes from modern-day players to his fellow Argentine, saying: “He has left us but he will never leave us because Diego is eternal.”
Argentine President Alberto Fernandez announced three days of national mourning in the South American country.
Argentine media first reported Wednesday that Maradona had suffered a serious setback in his bid to recover from the surgery earlier this month to remove a clot lodged between his brain and skull.
Family members were summoned to his home north of Buenos Aires before the announcement of his death was made.
Grieving fans later gathered at the Obelisk landmark in the center of Buenos Aires and at Boca Juniors’ stadium, the Bombonera, where Maradona played from 1981-82 and 1995-97.