Body of Football Great Maradona Lying in State at Presidential Palace in Buenos Aires

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Diego Maradona’s coffin has arrived at the presidential palace in Buenos Aires for a period of lying in state, TV reports showed, following the death of the Argentine football legend aged 60 on Wednesday.

Hundreds of people were already lining up to pay their respects to Maradona, who died while recovering from a brain operation, the images from sports channels TyC and ESPN showed.

Maradona, 60, died at his home after suffering a heart attack on Wednesday, following brain surgery in early November due to a stroke.

His larger-than-life personality and fancy footwork gained him a following across the globe.

He led Argentina to glory at the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico with an outstanding performance in which he scored two of the most celebrated goals in football history during a quarterfinal match against England.

The first and probably most controversial goal on record was, according to Maradona, abetted by “the hand of God.” In reality, the ball had made convenient contact with his left hand, but the referee had missed it, so Maradona passed it off, in typically jovial fashion, as an otherworldly event.

The second goal went down as one of the finest in the history of the World Cup. Maradona danced past five England players in a sprint from midfield to the goalmouth before sliding the ball past goalkeeper Peter Shilton.

Maradona flirted with death on several occasions, mainly due to a prolonged addiction to cocaine that severely stressed his heart.

On his 60th birthday on October 30, he insisted on going to the stadium of the team he coached, Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata, despite being in very poor health.

Days later, he was hospitalised with a stroke and underwent brain surgery but was unable to make a full recovery.

Maradona passed away “around 12:00” local time (1500 GMT) Wednesday at his home in the neighbourhood of San Andres, on the northern outskirts of the capital Buenos Aires.

Meanwhile, Argentina’s government has declared three days of national mourning.

“The President of the Nation will decree three days of national mourning from the day (of his death),” said the statement from the office of the presidency.

Pele, the Brazilian footballer who is considered one of the only players to have come close to Maradona’s skill level, was quick to pay tribute to the Argentine.

EPA

“Certainly, one day we’ll kick a ball together in the sky above,” he said.

Maradona married his long-time girlfriend Claudia Villafane in 1984. They had two daughters, Dalma and Gianinna, and divorced in 2004.

He also had a son, Diego Junior, born in Naples in 1986, although he only acknowledged paternity in 2004.

Years of drug use, overeating and alcoholism truncated his stellar career and altered his appearance from a lithe athlete who could slalom effortlessly through teams to a bloated addict who nearly died of cocaine-induced heart failure in 2000.

But at his peak he was, said Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, an “unparalleled magician.”

“Today I say goodbye to a friend and the world says goodbye to an eternal genius,” he said.

“One of the best ever. An unparalleled magician. He leaves too soon but leaves a legacy without limits and a void that will never be filled. Rest in peace, ace. You will never be forgotten.”

“Rest in Peace, legend of football,” tweeted Brazil idol Neymar. His message was accompanied by a black and white photo of Maradona from his playing days with Neymar as a boy.