Diego Maradona, one of the greatest footballers of all time, died Wednesday at the age of 60, plunging his sport and his native Argentina into mourning.
Renowned along with Pele as one of the greatest players ever to play the game, the Argentine World Cup-winning captain died of a heart attack, having undergone brain surgery earlier this month, a member of his entourage told AFP.
Maradona will forever be known for his “Hand of God” goal against England in the 1986 World Cup quarter-final in Mexico when he appeared to use his hand to push the ball into the net before later swerving through the English defenders for a memorable second goal that sealed the victory.
Pele said Maradona had been a “dear friend” and said he hoped they would “play together in the sky” one day.
The life of the divine footballing talent that was Diego Armando Maradona was marked by wild highs and lows, with Argentina and with club sides Boca Juniors, Barcelona, and Napoli.
Excesses with cocaine and alcohol had long taken their toll on the mercurial talent’s health.
The former player underwent surgery earlier this month to remove a clot lodged between his brain and skull.
Maradona has been admitted to hospital three times in the last 20 years for serious health issues — two of which were potentially fatal — due to his drug and alcohol addictions.
The highs were crowned by his performances when he captained Argentina to victory in Mexico in 1986.
In the final, Maradona set up the 86th-minute winner against West Germany. He scored twice in the semi-final against Belgium, beating four defenders for the second.
But the match that defined his tournament, and possibly his international career, was that win over England, in which he scored two goals that will be remembered forever — for very different reasons.
“Always in our hearts. Ciao Diego,” Napoli tweeted after his death was announced.
European football’s governing body UEFA announced that Maradona would be honoured with a minute’s silence before Wednesday’s Champions League games.