Maradona’s death came as a blow to Keralites, but for Keralite football fans, the news was devastating.

Diego Maradona waving at people. He is wearing a blue shirtPC/Twitter Manu Sebastian
news Mourning Thursday, November 26, 2020 - 17:30

"Was aware that he was playing extra time, but, never realised that game will end in sudden death. Farewell, the ‘Mozart of playfield’. Who will conduct the soul-soothing symphony now?” Ravi Menon, a well-known journalist from Kerala who writes about sports and music, wrote on Facebook in memory of Diego Maradona, the football legend who died on Wednesday. Ravi is not alone in mourning the loss of this icon; it can be said that the state of Kerala is collectively grieving, as though it has lost a son of its soil. In the past, the people of Kerala also equally mourned the deaths of the legendary Latin American writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez, as well as the Argentinian revolutionary Che Guevara.

Maradona will be remembered for many years to come, just like Marquez and Che Guevara.

Maradona’s death came as a blow to Keralites; but for Keralite football fans, the news was devastating. “June 1986. Our television was a year-old, with grains as big as tennis balls, and 20 men from the neighbourhood squeezed in front of it every night for a month. I walked into the football fields of Mexico with them, surrounded by the whiff of black coffee, bidi smoke, Wills cigarettes and sleeplessness. We were all Diego Maradona. There was a football stuck to our left foot. Later, I would find that it was the first time Doordarshan had telecast live the entire World Cup matches. If sport was delicious insomnia, Diego was the god that dribbled forever in our delirium. Forever,” recalls Delhi-based Malayali journalist Charmy Harikrishan.  

The Chief Minister of Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan, expressed on Facebook that apparently, outside his native Argentina, it is in Kerala that Maradona has the most number of fans. “This magical player has a big place in the heart of football lovers of Kerala ever since the 1986 World Cup was raised by Argentina. When (football) world cup is held in any corner of the world, it will be in this small Kerala, his (Maradona’s) pictures will be raised the most,” the CM wrote. Kerala's Sports Department has also announced two days of mourning in remembrance of the football legend.

Many changed their Facebook cover pictures to that of Maradona. For a few Malayalam newspapers, the death of Maradona was a page-one lead story, covering more than half the page. Other newspapers missed out on this, owing to the fact that they had to go into print early on Wednesday, due to the general strike on Thursday. Mathrubhumi, the second most popular Malayalam newspaper, covered the death of Maradona on the entire front page, with the headline, 'Went back to the hand of God'.

Renu Ramanath, an independent journalist based in Thrissur, reminisces, “1986. When that curly haired young man became the heart throb of my generation...... When live football streamed into our drawing rooms for the first time. When those first Solidaire and Dianora screens took us to the green turfs across continents. When the concept of 'time zones' started to dawn upon us as we crowded in front of the TV at midnights..... That icon is gone.”

Popular anchor Ranjini Haridas says the day when Maradona visited Kerala will be etched in her heart forever. “I had the honour of hosting an event years ago when the legend himself came to visit his Malayalee football fans in Kannur. That day will forever be etched in my heart as it was probably one of the most energy filled, crazy, most fun ones I’ve hosted.

What stays in one’s mind is the enigmatic aura of the football star... His energy, his spirit and of course the people’s fanatic love for possibly the greatest footballer of all time.

When I heard about his passing... my mind immediately travelled back to that very day of complete madness - hosting the event, dancing with him, being kissed by him ...instead of excitement it’s sadness and a huge sense of loss that I feel. To know he is no more is definitely a hard hit for the world. A tremendous loss,” Ranjini posted on Instagram.

V K Sanju, a journalist based in Kochi, even compared Maradona to a character in Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s works -- eternal.

Also ReadIM Vijayan recalls why Maradona refused to cut a football-shaped cake