Thousands of people took to the streets to bid an emotional farewell to Argentina football legend Diego Maradona on Thursday.
Several vehicles accompanied the car carrying Maradona’s body from the San Fernando hospital to the Casa Rosada’s presidential palace in Buenos Aires.
Argentina president Alberto Fernandez, who declared three days of national mourning, had offered the use of the government building to Maradona’s family.
“His unparalleled footballing skill transformed him into one of the best-known people in the world, crossing frontiers and being universally recognised as the world’s best player,” the official mourning decree read.
Fans began queuing in the early hours of Thursday morning outside the government building before the doors opened to the general public at 6 a.m. local time (4 a.m. ET).
Maradona’s former wife Claudia Villafane and two of his five children, Dalma and Giannina, were among the first to arrive to the Casa Rosada and enter the Hall of the Patriots where the 1986 World Cup winner’s body lay.
Argentina Football Association president Claudio Tapia, several of Maradona’s former teammates and personalities from Boca Juniors, the club Maradona played for before signing for Barcelona in 1982, also paid their respects.
Wednesday’s Copa Libertadores quarterfinals tie between Boca and Internacional had been postponed by Conmebol following Maradona’s death.
Argentina’s Football Association (AFA) said in a statement: “There is no better example than to name Maradona to summarise in one person all the quality of an Argentinian footballer. Maradona is a synonym of Argentina.”
There were emotional scenes outside the Casa Rosada as fans struggled to cope with the death of Maradona.
Argentinian side Gimnasia y La Plata, the club Maradona coached before his operation, suspended all activities for 72 hours.
Pope Francis, who met Maradona several times at the Vatican and is a big football fan, said in a statement that he would pray for his fellow Argentinian.
The country’s professional league announced that the Copa Liga professional will be renamed as the Diego Maradona Cup.
Maradona enjoyed his best years playing for Napoli, where was from 1984 to 1991. He scored 115 goals in 259 games, helping the Italian club clinch two Serie A titles, in 1987 and 1990, as well as their only European trophy, the UEFA Cup in 1989.
Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis said his club is considering merging Maradona’s name to their existing San Paolo stadium.
Since ending his playing career in 1997, Maradona had dealt with a series of health issues relating to his long battle with drug and alcohol addiction.
“If I die, I want to be re-born and be a footballer,” Maradona said in 1992. “I want to be again Diego Armando Maradona. I’m a player that has given joy to people and that is more than enough for me.”