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Maradona laid to rest as huge crowds gather to bid farewell to football legend in Argentina

Fans cheer and shout to pay tribute during the burial ceremony of Argentine football legend Diego Maradona (Getty Images)

Diego Maradona has been buried in a private ceremony following a day of emotional scenes as huge crowds gathered to bid farewell to the footballing legend in Buenos Aires.

Only about two dozen relatives and close friends attended the ceremony in Argentina’s capital city on Thursday. Meanwhile, huge crowds turned out to pay their respects with many people seen weeping and praying as his coffin passed.

Maradona died of a heart attack on Wednesday at the age of 60.

In a day of high emotion, the World Cup winner was taken by hearse late on Thursday to the Bella Vista cemetery on the outskirts of Buenos Aires for the small private ceremony.

The hearse carrying the casket of Diego Maradona leaves the government house in Buenos Aires-AP

Thousands of Argentines lined the roads as the procession passed on the hour-long journey from the presidential palace, where Maradona had lain in state during the day.

His death triggered mourning around the world.

In Italy, crowds tied hundreds of blue and white scarfs to the railings outside his former club Napoli, while in France, sports paper L’Equipe’s front page blared out: “God is dead”.

In Argentina, three days of national mourning were called for the player who led the country to a 1986 World Cup win and is revered with cult-like status.

Tens of thousands took to the streets despite fears over the coronavirus pandemic.

Some left flowers and messages at his childhood home.

During the day, Maradona’s body lay in state in a closed casket at the Casa Rosada presidential palace on the central Plaza de Mayo.

It was covered with the blue and white national flag and an Argentina football shirt with the number 10 that had been part of his nickname “D10S” – a play on “dios”, the Spanish word for God.

Starting at dawn on Thursday, thousands of fans had formed a snaking line estimated at over a mile long through the streets of Buenos Aires near the plaza, after a night of mourning.

Fans who got inside the palace threw football shirts, flowers and other items towards the casket.

Maradona’s body was later transferred to the cemetery, surrounded by a huge procession of police and others on motorbikes and cars.

In Naples, meanwhile, fans laid out flowers, children’s pictures, candles and even a bottle of wine in a rapidly expanding, makeshift shrine.

Major athletes and world leaders, including Argentina-born Pope Francis, have paid their own tributes.

Madonna was beloved in his homeland after leading Argentina to World Cup glory in 1986 and adored in Italy for taking Napoli to two Serie A titles.

He rose from the tough streets of Buenos Aires to reach the pinnacle of his sport.

The 1986 World Cup included a quarter-final game against England where Maradona scored two of the tournament’s best-known goals ever – an illicit “Hand of God” goal and one that followed an incredible swerving, dribble.

Maradona also battled various health problems over the years as a result of his addictions.

Earlier this month, he was hospitalised for symptoms including anemia and dehydration and underwent emergency surgery for a subdural hematoma – a blood clot in the brain.

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