A giant Maradona emerges in Argentina, days before the World Cup

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Amid the concrete jungle that is Argentina’s bustling capital, a huge mural has emerged of Diego Maradona wearing a national team jersey, his right hand in a fist and a defiant expression on his face.

The massive artwork, 148 feet tall and 131 feet wide (45 meters by 40 meters) and painted on the side of a 14-story building in Buenos Aires, is one of many tributes that Argentines dedicated to their “God” of football shortly before. the start of this year’s World Cup in Qatar, the first since Maradona’s death on November 25, 2020.

Maradona’s exploits and defeats as a national team player are remembered, from the famous and infamous goals against England before County won the 1986 World Cup to the failed final against Germany in West four years later, and the doping test that got him expelled. the next World Cup in 1994.

Well-known street artist Martín Ron was behind the world’s largest mural, inspired by a photograph of the then Argentine captain who captures his expression shortly before he sings the national anthem in the 1990 World Cup final against West Germany, which Argentina lost 1–0.

“It’s a picture of Diego as he was about to win the country’s third star,” Ron told The Associated Press during a break from work he started a year ago. month.

Argentina also won the World Cup in 1978, but Maradona did not make the squad for that tournament.

“This photo sums up everything Diego was,” Ron said. “Beyond the player, he was the guts, the engine, the heart.”

On one side of Maradona’s face, Ron painted a kite-shaped constellation of stars, a reference to his nickname “cosmic kite”, which is what a well-known radio commentator called football star after his second goal against England in 1986.

“His absence will be felt, Diego has always been a star. In all the World Cups he did his own thing, inside and outside the pitch,” Ron said. “And in Qatar he will unfortunately not be there.”

Ron’s mural was officially unveiled on Sunday to coincide with the footballing great’s birthday.

A few days earlier, the Argentine football association had received the original shirt that Maradona wore during the 1986 World Cup. It was a gift from German great Lothar Matthäus, who swapped shirts with Maradona after the won final 2-1 by Argentina at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City.

“One of the happiest moments with him was when (Brazilian referee) Arppi Filho whistled in the final in Mexico. I happened to be very close to Diego, I was lucky may he hug me before anyone else,” former player Ricardo Giusti recalled at a recent event alongside other former World Cup champions outside Buenos Aires.

“We enjoyed it so much, everyone enjoyed Diego. That’s what’s sad. It makes us feel a lot of sadness, grief and disillusion,” the former midfielder said.

Matthäus’ donation was a sort of reparation for Argentina after they failed to win an auction for the shirt Maradona wore in the match against England in the quarter-finals of this FIFA Cup tournament. world. An unknown bidder from outside the country bought the iconic item at auction for a record $9 million in May.

In 1994, Maradona played his last World Cup game against Nigeria in the group stage. He was suspended for 15 months following the 2-1 victory after a positive doping test.

As Argentina coach, Maradona led the national team to the quarter-finals of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, but the team lost to Germany 4-0.

One of the most disturbing images came eight years later at the 2018 World Cup in Russia when an overweight and somewhat disoriented Maradona collapsed at the Saint Petersburg stadium after a 2-1 victory over Nigeria.

Maradona died aged 60 while hospitalized at his home following brain surgery. Legal authorities are continuing to investigate to determine if this was medical negligence.

“We miss him, Diego’s image was and is very strong,” said fellow 1986 Championship squad member Carlos Tapia. “He was our benchmark, captain, everything. He has always been close to each of us. Hopefully he can be a guide from above in Qatar.


AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports


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