Dribbling Minds

Dribbling Minds Football Magazine

It’s God’s hand that Maradona is in India

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More than 50 thousand sports buffs assembled at the airport and various street junctions leading to the hotel from old infirm men to children not yet in their teens, from able-bodied youth to bashful housewives to see football God Diego Maradona. More than 5000 policemen, including the Rapid Action Force and crack commandos deployed on the entire route of Maradona’s convoy to prevent any breach of peace couldn’t prevent a couple of over-enthusiastic teenagers who were seen climbing lamp posts near the airports to hoist Argentine flags.

No lamp-post is too high when we are on a Maradona high

No lamp-post is too high when we are on a Maradona high

Thirty-one years is a long time to complete a circle after a footballing great had last visited India. They’ll tell you in India that it was worth the wait. Diego is a man who wears his heart on his sleeve. Tens of thousands of people carrying lanterns and candles came out early Saturday to greet Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona. Maradona helped lay down a foundation stone for the Indian Football School, which is being set up to train young talents and help spread the sport at a grass-roots level.

The newly appointed Argentina coach was taken to the school on a bus, waving and blowing kisses to the throngs of fans lining the streets to get a glimpse of the football great. At the ceremony, Maradona kicked a football into the crowd before taking his shoe off to make a print of his famous left foot.

“I am very surprised and happy to see so many people on the streets to greet me,” Maradona said

“You have to give a lot of attention and affection to the players and the game for it to grow,” Maradona said. “India still has a long way to go. However, I wish all the best to Indian football.”

“I thought there were no more surprises left in life but my visit to Kolkata has changed that,” Maradona told a news conference after arriving in the eastern city, India’s soccer hub, for a two-day visit.

“I didn’t know people loved soccer so much in this part of the world,” added Maradona through an interpreter. A crowd of around 100,000 came at an exhibition game in Maradona’s honour at Kolkata’s main stadium on Saturday, to which leading Indian players past and present were invited.

The overwhelming response from the football-crazy Kolkata on his visit to the city has impressed soccer legend Diego Maradona so much that he has offered his services for the improvement the game in the country. “I would like to return here with my family to enjoy a lot. I have a contract right now to improve the Argentine team. If I get an opportunity after my contract gets over, I would like to come here and improve the standard of the sport in India,” a visibly touched Maradona said through an interpreter today. “My whole-hearted wishes to India. India has to do a lot to improve. Infrastructure needs to improve like other football countries in the world.”

Asked how India should proceed to get its own Maradona, the hero of Argentina’s 1986 World Cup victory, Diego said “An aspiring footballer needs a lot of attention and affection to grow. He should be looked after so nicely that the footballer should not think what he would do next day. A footballer needs security in life. So he has to be looked after well for him to be successful.” The Argentine World Cup winning captain said he thought life has given him everything and he has nothing more to achieve but the euphoria of the crazy fans over his two-day trip to the city has changed his thinking.

D I E G O !!! D I E G O !!!

D I E G O !!! D I E G O !!!

“I’ve got many laurels in life and hence I had stopped thinking that there would more (laurels) coming. But the Indian reception has changed my way of thinking. Today I’ve learnt that there is more to come.”

There is lot of competition in the world and India has a lot to achieve.” Maradona said he was moved by the love and affection showered on him here. “I really feel very emotional. I thought I have gone through enough experiences in this life. But after coming here I think there are more to come.”

The highlight of the function was when he was presented with a portrait of Che Guevara drawn by a local schoolboy.

Rajarshee Chatterjee blessed by Diego "GOD" Maradona

Rajarshee Chatterjee blessed by Diego "GOD" Maradona

Maradona was so moved by seeing the picture that he hugged the little artist Rajarshee Chatterjee and kissed him on his forehead. “I come from a country which worships Che and Fidel (Castro). I am overwhelmed to see my heroes are equally honoured here,” he said, while adding in the same breath, “viva India, viva Kalkuta (long live India, long live Kolkata).”

“I will forever cherish the reception I have received ever since landing here. I feel like being at home in India,” he said after he was showered with gifts ranging from a golden boot, a golden ball, a golden replica of the Salt Lake Stadium and a set of 100 roses, each of which wished him a year in life. The 5,000-strong security men had a harrowing time to control the surging crowd which started pouring since 9 pm and almost run over the barricade as the football prince arrived, over three decades after the visit of soccer great Pele.

‘I had no idea that here in India, a country so far away from my homeland, I have so many fans,” said Diego Armando Maradona, while unveiling the foundation stone of Indian Football School at Maheshtala today.

“I would like to thank people who brought me here. I would like to return here with my family, who have enjoyed a lot. I feel very emotional,”said Maradona, moved by the large turnout.

“Everybody is watching me. I am enjoying it.. It seems India is my home. I will never forget this experience,” Maradona said at the fag end of the felicitation function as hundreds of people gave him a standing ovation.

A septuagenarian who came with his grandson to have a glimpse of the footballer, said: “I used to play football but left it long back in 1960, the year this little genius was born. I wanted to see him once in my life. I am happy that my wish is fulfilled today,”he said.

Bien Venido Diego!!!

Bien Venido Diego!!!

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December 7, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , ,

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