Fans mark 1 year since death of ‘people’s saint’ Maradona amid rape claims

Buenos Aires, Nov 24 (EFE).- One year on from Diego Maradona’s death, fans in his homeland Argentina, where he is seen as a “popular saint,” are paying tribute to the former world champion.

But while many in the South American nation remember the football legend fondly, ghosts from his past continue to haunt him as an Argentine court investigates allegations that he trafficked and sexually abused a Cuban woman 20 years ago.

In Buenos Aires, the first house Diego Maradona owned has been converted into a museum which contains a small shrine decorated with paintings, football boots and an altar with photographs paying homage to the soccer legend who died a year ago aged 60.

“Some Catholics cross themselves, we have seen people kneeling, breaking down … these are very intense moments” for Maradona’s fans, curator Cesar Perez told Efe, adding that it has become a pilgrimage site for Maradonian “parishioners.”

It is one of the hundreds of shrines dedicated to Maradona, who died on 25 November 2020, across the country, where millions have elevated their national hero to the status of “popular saint.”

“Diego is an idol. Making altars was also a way of giving it back to the people,” Veronica Sanchez, who launched the Santa Maradona initiative to pay tribute to him through wooden altars, told Efe.

Initially, she planned only 10 altars but ended up building 168, mostly in Buenos Aires’ poorest neighborhoods.

“He spoke the same language as us, he never spoke down, he never spoke like Diego the super player,” she said. “That made us all feel (…) like he is one of our friends, and that is the love we have for him.”

His widespread popularity in Argentina could be tested by allegations made last week by a Cuban woman, who has accused the former soccer star of raping her when she was 16 years old while he was undergoing drug addiction treatment in Havana.

Mavys Álvarez made the allegations before an Argentine court investigating claims of human trafficking by Maradona’s entourage.

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