It’s been almost 30 years since Diego Maradona put an end to his remarkable playing career in Napoli, but a year after his death at the age of 60, the great Argentinian is more present than ever in the Neapolitan world.
His name is sewn onto shirts, smeared on the city walls of southern Italy and etched in the hearts of people, many too young to have ever seen him play.
And on Thursday, the first anniversary of his death, a bronze statue will be unveiled in front of the stadium which now bears his name – Stadio Diego Armando Maradona to celebrate the “eternal” link with the “Pibe de Oro”.
Diego is everywhere, from the central station to the official Naples store where his face stands out from the stylized fingerprint on the jersey in the window.
The shirt, worn by the Napoli players in November, is probably one of the last to be found in the city. Produced in limited numbers and sold for charity, these collector’s edition jerseys have long since sold out on the club’s website.
New images of the icon bloom regularly at the foot of Vesuvius. Street artist Mario Casti, already author of “ten” of them for a year, was still hard at work this week to finalize a new one, for the anniversary. Maradona, idol of all Neapolitans, also inspired the sculptor Domenico Sepe, whose work will be installed Thursday in front of the former San Paolo stadium, renamed last December by the name of Maradona.
“The work was born from a personal requirement. When he heard of his death, something was missing in my daily life. And as a Neapolitan but also a Neapolitan tifoso and sculptor, I decided to pay tribute to him with a work that offers him eternity ”, he explains to AFP, staring at the barely finalized sculpture – the balloon has just been fixed – in a foundry in the Pianura district.
Maradona died on November 25, 2020, at the age of 60, two weeks after leaving the Olivos clinic, in the outskirts of Buenos Aires, where he had been successfully operated on for a subdural hematoma on his head.
Born in Buenos Aires, Maradona went through the youth system at Argentinos Juniors before joining Boca Juniors at age 21. He joined Barcelona a year later, after the 1982 World Cup, spending two years at Camp Nou before joining Napoli for a seven-year stint. El Pibe de Oro would play his best football there and lead Argentina to the 1986 World Cup. He then spent a season in Seville before retiring to Argentina with Newell’s Old Boys and Boca.