Fans pay tribute to Maradona with shirts and chants
DOHA: Javier Malouf will quietly wear a shirt worn by Diego Maradona against England, but other World Cup fans have loud plans to mark the second anniversary on Friday of the defective genius’s death.
A legion of Argentina fans may also be praying to the sporting gods that the late soccer star can still inspire his country to victory over Mexico on Saturday to keep their hopes alive in Qatar.
Malouf is like many Argentina fans who never fully recovered from Maradona’s death from a heart attack at the age of 60.
The shirt worn by Maradona during a match against England at Wembley in 1980 is the prized item in Malouf’s collection of 1,000 football shirts, valued at an estimated $1 million.
“I will wear it for some time as a sign of respect,” he told AFP at his home in Doha, where he keeps T-shirts and other souvenirs.
“We all know his story but we all know his impact on the game.”
A respected memorabilia investigator, Maloof, 56, also has a blood-stained Argentine jersey worn by Mario Kempes in the 1978 World Cup match against France.
This is folded close to the River Plate jersey worn in 1931 by Carlos Poesel, who had played in his first World Cup a year earlier. Memorabilia is now big business, with Maradona merchandise highly sought after.
In May, a shirt worn by the Argentina striker when he scored his famous “Hand of God” goal in the 1986 World Cup against England sold at auction for $9.3 million.
The ball he caught against England this month was sold for 2 million pounds ($2.4 million).
The shirt is on display at the Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum 3-2-1 during the World Cup, but Maalouf is among the fans who think it belongs to Argentina.
“It would be nice if you go to Argentina one day, so that all the public can see it and feel its importance,” he said.
More than 30,000 Argentine fans are in Qatar for this year’s tournament, and while many worship current number 10 Lionel Messi, Maradona’s name still carries an almost mystical power.
Many have been on a pilgrimage to the huge mural of Maradona near Khalifa Stadium in Doha.
In Argentina’s first match – a shock 2-1 defeat against Saudi Arabia – there were Maradona masks, banners and T-shirts on display in the stadium.
And enthusiasts say there will be plenty of public tributes to Maradona on Friday.
A group is planning a march to Maradona FanFest at Doha International Airport.
The main attraction there is a hologram of the player as well as a “tribute plane” bearing images of Maradona that will be auctioned off, with a large portion of the proceeds going to charity.
Diego and Chury Feliz went to Monday’s game wearing headgear emblazoned with Maradona sitting on a camel. They have taken countless selfies with Arab football fans.
Gonzalo, a 32-year-old lawyer from Buenos Aires, recalled the shock of learning of Maradona’s death.
“I was on the beach, my girlfriend told me and I said we had to take our things and go straight back to Buenos Aires.” They were among the thousands who waited outside Maradona’s home.
Claudio carried the flag showing Maradona embracing Messi, which would be seen again when Argentina faced Mexico.
Laura Valero, who borrowed $8,000 to take a trip to Qatar, said she was “recovering” from the defeat.
“I will wear Maradona’s shirt because you have to believe in something,” she said of the anniversary and the looming match.