Diego Maradona's death leaves a nation in mourning as thousands flood the streets - in pictures

Three days of mourning declared for Argentina's favourite son

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Stunned Argentines were plunged into grief by the death of the country's favourite son Diego Maradona, a sublimely gifted sporting hero they saw as "the most human of Gods."

The news fell like a hammer blow to a nation beaten down by months of economic crisis and the coronavirus pandemic, but one where football is seen as a panacea for all ills.

Diego Maradona 1960-2020

Diego Maradona 1960-2020

At 10:00pm Buenos Aires exploded in cheers, horns, sirens and lights for the man who famously wore the No 10, after a viral social media message called for "one last applause".

The homage resounded throughout the night in all the neighbourhoods of the Argentine capital.

At the Diego Maradona stadium, home to the Argentinos Juniors club where Maradona played as a child and made his debut as a professional player, fireworks were launched as a large crowd flooded into the field to the cry of "Maradooo, Maradooo."

Earlier, fans searching for a place to grieve gravitated towards the Obelisk landmark in downtown Buenos Aires - and, of course, the Bombonera, the steep-sided cauldron of a stadium that is home to Boca Juniors, where Maradona's genius was forged.

"I can't believe it. It's incredible. One thinks one gets through any storm, but no, everyone ends up being mortal. It feels like a bad dream," Francisco Salaverry, 28, told AFP.

"Today's a bad day. A very sad day for all Argentines," President Alberto Fernandez summed up in an interview with sports channel TyC, after declaring three days of national mourning.

All around the city, the mourning had already begun as fans stood forlornly beside banners in homage to the No 10, showing Maradona - who died aged 60 of a heart attack - in his dashing prime.

Many of the banners simply said D10S, a play on the Spanish word "dios" for "God" that includes Maradona's jersey number.

"I prefer not to speak. I'm going to the Obelisk today," said Guillermo Rodriguez, a lifelong fan who gave himself a tattoo of his idol on October 30th to celebrate Maradona's 60th birthday.

Football legend Diego Maradona dies

Football legend Diego Maradona dies

Rodriguez, 42, couldn't hold back his tears, saying he now knew he would never be able to fulfil his dream of hugging his idol.

"I'm totally shocked, grief-stricken," said Gabriel Oturi, 68. "I'll be honest with you. I thought he was a great guy who didn't have very good people around him, who was taken advantage of a lot."

"The first thing my 12-year-old son said to me was: 'Mum, Maradona died.' I couldn't believe it. And I didn't adore him particularly, but I felt sorry for him," said Marcela Rodriguez, 52.

"Few times in my life have I felt the pain that invades me today," wrote Maurico Passadore on social media, thinking about the famous World Cup tie against England in Mexico in June 1986, when Maradona scored the infamous "Hand of God" goal.

"Few times have I felt as much joy as that June 29, when we touched the sky with our hands, the same sky that today is darkened and fills us with tears."