‘If you love football, you love Maradona’ | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, November 27, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:03 AM, November 27, 2020

‘If you love football, you love Maradona’

When news of Diego Armando Maradona's passing filtered through on the night of November 25 in Bangladesh, the grief that took hold in the country was as if a mischievous, magnetic boy next door died and not a footballing genius who lived 10,000 miles away and imbued everything he touched with the brightest colours.

Born and raised in the darkness of Villa Fiorito, a poor area on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, it was not just Argentina that Maradona lit up with his exploits; he ignited the world. People here found immense joy in his genius, his impossible talent and defiance of established expectations. In Bangladeshis' eyes, he was the boy next door -- the rare one that through his joie de vivre, impossible talent and penchant for triumphing against all odds gave others like him the gift of aspiration.

"After waking up, I heard Maradona passed away and I really felt that I lost something valuable because he is not only an iconic footballer but also a great human, who was so popular locally and globally," said Mohammad Kamrul Islam Mamun, a service holder in a private company.

A banker named Partha Ghosh said, "Maradona was very popular among people of all walks of life. Everyone looked sad at work and it seemed they were struggling to pay attention today [Thursday]."

Architect Maruf Hossain believes Maradona's loss is a deep one for the world as he took football to a different level not only in terms of technical ability but also popularity in parts of the world that in the 1980s and early '90s were not considered mainstream, like Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and some African countries.

"He was very much like a boy next door because his background is very similar to ours. He reached this stage by rising from a poor area and showed us that it is possible to reach the top through football, which also inspires less developed countries like us," said the former BUET student. "He was a really courageous person who used to protest boldly against irregularities, even against FIFA."

Kazi Shamim Al Momin Rupok, a businessman, said, "During my childhood, I started loving Argentina due to Maradona, whose image was on notebooks, T-shirts, cards and posters ahead of the 1990 World Cup. I stopped supporting Argentina after their defeat to Cameroon but I have been a big fan of Maradona.

"The triumph of the 1986 World Cup made him so popular among Bangladeshi fans who never lost their love for him despite some infamous off-field incidents. Bangladeshi fans also had a lot of sympathy for Maradona because he was never allowed to play freely on the ground."

National striker Nabib Newaj Jibon said, "If you love football, you should love Maradona. I became his fan after watching his videos. He was best in his time although he had to face a lot of fouls from opponents, which are now bookable offences." Former national footballer and coach Julfiker Mahmud Mintu believes Maradona was an unbelievable player who won the hearts of Bangladeshi fans with his brilliant performance, nothing else.

"To be honest, I am as shocked by the demise of Maradona as I was by [the death of] Badal Roy. Maradona has been a golden boy of Fiorito and he was also the same to me because I started to follow him in 1986 as a footballer in the Pioneer League."  

"Maradona for me is the greatest thing that happened to me in life. I love him as much as my father and it's like my old man died," Cristian Montelli, 22, a fan of the star's former club Boca Juniors said with tears in his eyes. Argentines lined up in the streets of Buenos Aires on Thursday to say goodbye to soccer great Diego Maradona.

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