Some had travelled hundreds of kilometres in cars
On November 26, 2020, the Kerala government announced two days of mourning in the state’s sports sector as a mark of respect to football icon Diego Maradona.
The Argentinian footballer died at the age of 60 after suffering a heart attack.
Announcing the mourning, state sports minister EP Jayarajan said the departure of Maradona has saddened football fans around the world.
Kerala’s sports minister EP Jayarajan announced: “In Kerala also, lakhs of fans could not believe his departure.”
Under this circumstance, the state sports department decided to observe two days of mourning which started on November 26.
The iconic footballer had visited Kerala for two days in October 2012 for a private event.
For football-mad fans of the region, it was a god-sent opportunity as they could catch a glimpse of their hero from close quarters.
Such was the craze for the 1986 World Cup winner that fans had started converging at the stadium three days prior to the event.
Chief Minister of Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan also expressed grief on November 25, 2020, over the death of Diego Maradona.
A steady stream of fans and journalists went to the Hotel Blue Nile in Kannur to leave tributes as Kerala ordered the mourning period.
A local musician sang a mournful tribute to the footballer on regional television channels.
I was in Kerala the year Maradona visited. Malappuram was nothing short of a carnival. What an effect he had across generations! https://t.co/0S9iYayJ7R
— Manya Survey (@AkriPasta) November 25, 2020
Hotel owner Ravindran Veleimbra recalled the day when Maradona entered the lobby of Hotel Blue Nile where Maradona had resided in 2012.
Ravindran remembered how hordes of fans wearing Argentina’s blue and white shirts packed the road outside.
Some had travelled hundreds of kilometres in cars, buses and on bikes. Thousands more packed a local stadium.
Everything Maradona touched in room 309 has been preserved, the owner said.
“We have saved the cutlery, toiletries and even the bouquet that we gave him. The flowers have dried but it’s all framed.”
The prawn shells that were part of the salad he ate are also displayed, along with footballs and a menu the World Cup hero signed.
Ravindran continued: “People ask us specifically for a stay at the Maradona room.
“Everything that he touched is still intact and his fans want to experience that.
“It’s a day of mourning for us. He hugged me while he was leaving and to this day I can feel him around.”
Ravindran said he would now set up a Maradona statue.
Fans also headed to a Maradona statue in India’s eastern city of Kolkata that is also known as a football holdout.
The Argentinian superstar went to the eastern city of 15 million people in 2017.
He unveiled the 12-foot (3.6-metre) tall statue showing him holding the World Cup.
Fans left flowers and messages at the foot of the bronze statue, which stands on a road leading to Kolkata’s airport.
West Bengal State Minister Sujit Bose, who was amongst those to pay tribute, said:
“It’s the time for tears. He will always be in our hearts.”
Members of Kolkata’s Argentina Fan Club planned a vigil later in the day to recall his two visits to the city.
On Maradona’s first visit in 2008, nearly 50,000 people waited outside the airport hoping to get a glimpse.