By Frank Kamuntu
Three days of national mourning have begun in Argentina after Maradona succumbed to heart attack on Wednesday at the age of 60.
A minute’s silence took place before Wednesday’s Champions League matches and the same will happen before all other European fixtures this week.
Fans Mourn Their Hero
In Argentina, Wednesday’s match between Sport Club Internacional and Maradona’s former club Boca Juniors was postponed.
In Uganda, Bugiri Member of Parliament Asuman Basalirwa mourned th legend, “I played football in Mwiri and Kiira College, and yes I scored goals, bamboozled defenders but one thing that eluded me in my entire career was the completeness of a star like Diego Armando Maradona.”
Basalirwa says he first watched him play football in 1986 and resolved that he would be like him although “Local factors and circumstances could not permit me to emulate him.”
He adds, “He was suis generis in football and shall be remembered for that. He was ambidextrous with both legs, had pace,energy,wit and yes,deception. Big lesson for the young people: Talent without discipline is nothing. To Diego we could probably conclude that character is fate.”
In Argentina’s capital, “gracias Diego” replaced train information on digital metro signs, while fans sang La Mano De Dios (The Hand Of God) in city suburbs.
Fans flocked to La Bombonera, Boca Juniors’ stadium in Buenos Aires, where many were in tears – despite, in the case of some, being too young to remember Maradona’s playing days.
They also congregated in the San Andres neighbourhood, where Maradona lived, and to La Plata, where he most recently was manager of local club Gimnasia y Esgrima.
Thousands of miles away, they also gathered outside Napoli’s San Paolo stadium, which was lit up in tribute to the man who scored 81 goals in 188 appearances for the Italian club.
Fireworks erupted in the sky as those below, clad in Maradona shirts and even Maradona face masks, chanted and wept.
Maradona wasn’t just a sportsman for Argentinians, he was an icon, a political player and of course, a loveable rogue. There is deep sadness as people prepare to pay their respects to their superstar footballer.
But his influence goes beyond Argentina – South Americans are proud of their footballing heritage so this news has resonated across the region.
In neighbouring Brazil, where their man Pele vied for the title of world’s best footballer, Maradona’s death was headline news – much of the rivalry between the two countries can be put down to the two players, such is the passion for the beautiful came here.
But rivalry was put aside with Pele paying tribute to Maradona as a dear friend.
“One day, I hope, we will have a kick about together in heaven,” he said.
A statement from Napoli said: “Everyone is waiting for our words but what words could we possibly use for a pain such as this that we are going through?
“Now is the moment for tears. Then there will be the moment for words.
“We are in mourning. We feel like a boxer who has been knocked out. We are in shock. A devastating blow for both city and club.”
A day of mourning will take place in Naples on Thursday.
The mayor of the city, Luigi de Magistris, has called for the Stadio San Paolo be renamed in honour of Maradona.
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, Paul Elliott, who played against Maradona while at Pisa, said: “I have to say it was remarkable. There was a sublime talent that this man had, an aura, a presence, and you know when you feel a sense of energy.
“Napoli is a very poor part of the south of Italy, but their whole world was built around Maradona and Napoli.
“If you look at where the club was when he arrived, the impact of one man unequivocally was the key and the catalyst to the success that they had, and the way he just gave everybody hope.
“That was just by his remarkable, sublime talent.”