Kerala was in love with Maradona

The city of Kannur had welcomed Diego Maradona with much warmth in 2012. Sakeer Hussain  


Kerala is mourning the death of Diego Maradona. Officially.

The State government on Thursday announced a two-day mourning in the sports sector. Not many governments outside Argentina would have done something like that. Kerala was in love with Maradona.

There were great footballers before him. There have been great footballers after him. But, none was loved as much. None was revered as much.

Remember the frenzy he created when he visited the State in 2012? The city of Kannur had welcomed him with so much warmth and excitement as the legend took part in a private function at the Municipal Stadium. Never had the historic North Malabar city witnessed such a massive crowd.

T. Asif Saheer

Among those who went to Kannur was T. Asif Saheer, who was known as Mambad Maradona. One of the finest Indian footballers of his generation, Asif was a great favourite with crowds, for his exceptional dribbling skills and scoring ability. There was another thing he shared with Maradona – the height, or the lack of it.

“Though I was nowhere near Maradona in talent, I considered it a great honour when I was compared to him,” Asif says. “He was my academy of football. I just tried to imitate him.”

Asif was nine when Maradona scored what later came to be known as the goal of the century. The solo effort in the quarterfinal of the 1986 World Cup is still in his memory. The Argentine captain had beaten five defenders and the England goalkeeper Peter Shilton to score a stunning goal.

“I remember watching it live on television in my hometown of Mambad.,” says Asif. “Only one house in our area had a television and hundreds had assembled there to watch that match.”

P.T. Usha

P.T. Usha, India's greatest track-and-field athlete of all time and football fan, also remembers that goal. “I admired Maradona,” she says. “I loved the way he broke through the defence, much like a snake sneaking through grass. I don't think any other footballer had as much admirers in Kerala.”

Little wonder, there were functions held in his memory in different parts of the State, including one at Hotel Blue Nile in Kannur, where Maradona had stayed during his visit eight years ago. That room has since been turned into a Maradona museum. Just about everything Maradona used – including the plates on which he ate and even the shell of the giant tiger prawn, which was specially cooked for him by the chef – has been retained.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2021 1:07:53 PM |

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