Diego Maradona has been hailed as a “poet and a great champion” by Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church.
Maradona passed away at the age of 60 in November having suffered heart failure.
The former Argentina star is considered as one of the world’s greatest ever players, having led his country to World Cup glory in 1986 and taken Napoli from Serie A also-rans to one of Italy’s dominant forces.
Maradona had his off-field issues, including drug abuse and doping scandals, but Pope Francis, who met Maradona in 2014, praised the impact his compatriot had.
“I met Diego Armando Maradona during a Match for Peace in 2014: I remember with pleasure everything that Diego did for Scholas Occurrentes, the foundation that takes care of the needy all over the world,” The Pope told Gazzetta dello Sport.
“On the pitch he was a poet and a great champion who gave joy to millions of people, in Argentina as in Naples. He was also a very fragile man.”
10 – Diego Maradona was involved in 10 goals at the 1986 World Cup (5 goals, 5 assists), no player has been involved in as many goals in a single men’s World Cup since. Greatest. pic.twitter.com/GxXKga57oP
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 25, 2020
Pope Francis also recalled his memories of the 1986 World Cup, with Maradona starring in Mexico, finishing with five goals and assisting Argentina’s winner in the final.
“I have a personal memory linked to the 1986 World Cup, the one that Argentina won thanks to Maradona,” Pope Francis continued.
“I was in Frankfurt; it was a difficult time for me, I was studying the language and collecting material for my thesis.
“I hadn’t been able to see the World Cup final and I only learned the next day of Argentina’s victory over Germany, when a Japanese boy wrote ‘Viva l’Argentina’ on the blackboard during a German lesson.
“I remember it, personally, as the victory of loneliness because I had no one with whom to share the joy of that sporting victory: loneliness makes you feel alone, while what makes joy beautiful is being able to share it.
“When I was told of Maradona’s death, I prayed for him and sent the family a rosary with a few personal words of comfort.”
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