Football icon Diego Maradona died on Wednesday. The former Argentina star had a cardiac arrest at home, BBC reported. He was 60.
One of the greatest footballers of all time, Maradona led Argentina to the 1986 Fifa World Cup title in Mexico.
President Alberto Fernandez immediately announced three days of national mourning in the South American country, reported AFP.
Shortly before the announcement that shocked a nation, Argentine media reported Maradona had suffered a serious health setback on Wednesday and was being treated by doctors at his home north of Buenos Aires.
“Sad news today. I have lost a dear friend, and the world has lost a legend,” Brazil legend Pele wrote on Instagram, alongside a picture of Maradona hoisting the World Cup trophy in 1986.
“There is much more to say, but for now may God give his family strength. One day, I hope, we will play soccer together in the sky.”
Pele and Maradona, who often vie for the title of best footballer in history, had just celebrated milestone birthdays last month: 80 and 60, respectively.
Pele had wished Maradona well on his birthday on October 30, writing, “May your journey be long and may you always smile, and make me smile, too!”
Maradona had likewise congratulated Pele on his 80th a week before, joining in what he called “the universal tribute to the King.”
The Brazilian and Argentine were jointly named best player of the 20th century by Fifa in 2000.
The World Cup-winning former Argentine captain had undergone surgery earlier in *November to remove a clot lodged between his brain and skull. He had looked unwell during a brief appearance on October 30 to mark his 60th birthday at the stadium of Gimnasia y Esgrima, the Argentine Primera Division team he coached.
He seemed to have difficulty walking and did not stay to watch his team’s game.
Not long after, he was taken to hospital in La Plata, where the club is based, suffering from symptoms of anemia and dehydration.
Tests had revealed the blood clot, after which Maradona was transferred to a specialist clinic in the capital.
Maradona had been admitted to hospital three times in the last 20 years for serious health issues – two of which were potentially fatal – due to his drug and alcohol addictions.
The highs of his career were crowned by his performances when he captained Argentina to victory in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.
In the final, Maradona set up the 86th-minute winner against West Germany. He scored twice in the semi-final against Belgium, beating four defenders for the second.
But the match that defined his tournament, and possibly his international career, was the 2-1 quarter-final win over England, in which he scored two goals that will be remembered forever – for very different reasons.
In the 51st minute, as England goalkeeper Peter Shilton reached to catch the ball, Maradona, some seven inches shorter, jumped alongside him and with a deftness that fooled the eye, flicked the ball with his hand through the England goalkeeper’s arms and into the net.
After the game, Maradona said he scored “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God.”
The goal he scored four minutes later, when he picked up the ball in his own half and glided past six England players, including Shilton, was named “Goal of the Century” by FIFA.
He played for Boca Juniors in Argentina before joining Barcelona in Spain and later Napoli in Italy.
European football authority Uefa announced that Maradona is to be honored with a minute’s silence before Wednesday’s Champions League games.
Clarifications and corrections: The timeline of his surgery has been corrected.
(With AFP inputs)
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