Across globe, game-day tributes to Diego Maradona
Players observe a minute of silence in memory of former Argentina player and manager Diego Maradona who died from a heart attack on Wednesday, prior to the start of the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and Burnley at the Etihad stadium in Manchester, England, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020. (Laurence Griffiths/Pool via AP)
The Associated Press
Published Saturday, November 28, 2020 3:04PM EST
Across the world, teams paid tribute to Diego Maradona on Saturday with moments of silence before European soccer games and a touching gesture from New Zealand's rugby team.
The death of the Argentine great was still being felt three days after he had a heart attack at the age of 60 outside Buenos Aires, where he had been recovering from a brain operation.
Manchester City and Burnley players and coaches stood and applauded as a video showed Maradona's famous solo run and goal for Argentina against England in the quarterfinals of the 1986 World Cup. The “Hand of God” goal was earlier in the game.
“This week, we lost a true footballing great. Diego Maradona was everything football should be: expressive, exciting, attacking and free,” City manager Pep Guardiola said in the team's matchday program.
“A unique, once-in-a-generation player who brought joy to so many people,” he added. “Football will never forget Diego.”
City and Burnley players warmed up to the song “Live is Life” by Austrian band Opus. That's the tune Maradona warmed up to before one of Napoli's UEFA matches in 1989. The players went through their usual routine as the Etihad Stadium loudspeakers played the song.
Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti struggled to hold his emotions together. He made the sign of the cross and kissed his finger after a tribute before their match against Leeds. Ancelotti played against Maradona during their time in Serie A and later went on to manage Napoli.
Maradona led Napoli to its only two Serie A titles in 1987 and 1990 and is considered an icon in the southern city.
Tributes are ongoing across Serie A this weekend. The warmup song will also be broadcast in Italian stadiums.
All Serie A players were taking the field wearing a black armband, and a minute's silence was being observed before each kickoff, with players lined up around the centre circle.
The Italian league is also holding a minute's silence, projecting an image of Maradona on stadium screens, and highlighting the message “Ciao Diego” on the stands - which, like most stadiums in Europe, are empty because of coronavirus restrictions.
At the 10th minute of each Italian match, an image of Maradona was being projected again, in honour of his jersey number.
Napoli hosts Roma on Sunday. Thousands of Napoli supporters made a pilgrimage to San Paolo Stadium on Thursday to light a candle, leave a scarf or a shirt and shed some tears in memory of their hero.
Across the Bundesliga, teams stood for a moment's silence and images of Maradona were shown on stadium screens, including one of the Argentine raising the World Cup trophy in 1986, when they beat West Germany in the final.
At Union Berlin's home game, stadium announcer Christian Arbeit said in Spanish: “Hasta siempre companero.”
The tributes weren't limited to soccer.
Before their rugby Tri Nations test against Argentina, New Zealand captain Sam Cane presented an All Blacks jersey with Maradona's name and number 10.
As the All Blacks lined up to perform the haka, Cane stepped out, walked toward midfield and laid down the jersey as the Argentina players stood arm-in-arm and watched.
“It was a gesture, a token, of paying our respects to an Argentine legend, a world legend in his field as well,” Cane said after the match, which New Zealand won 38-0.
Several Argentine players nodded in acknowledgment of the gesture.
“I'm really thankful for that,” Pumas flanker Pablo Matera said. “Diego Maradona was obviously huge for Argentina, so I'm really thankful for that gesture from the All Blacks.
“He's been a huge inspiration for all of us: Players, coaches, the people of Argentina.”