Argentina paid an emotional, spectacular tribute toDiego Maradonabefore their first tournament match since the death of the nation’s iconic No 10 in November.
We never got to see Lionel Messi and Maradona share a pitch as players. But they both took to the field – in a way – on Monday night, as a sensational 3D light show saw a holographic Maradona doing kick-ups on the pitch before Argentina’s Copa America opener against Chile.
A 3D Maradona took to the centre of Rio’s Estadio Olimpico Nilton Santos – while a series of iconic El Diego highlights (including his second goal against England in the 1986 World Cup) played out beneath his feet.
Maradona’s kit changed throughout the sequence – from Boca Juniors to Barcelona toNapoli, before settling on the sky-blue-and-white Argentina shirt – as the hologram went through an array of warm-up tricks.
The soundtrack was, inevitably, Live is Life the Europop anthem that accompanied Maradona’s most famous pre-match routine: when he nonchalantly juggled the ball – laces undone – before Napoli’s UEFA Cup semi-final against Bayern Munich in 1989.
Messi paid his own, more conventional, tribute to Maradona by scoring a sublime, curing free-kick of the kind El Diego made famous during his playing days to give Argentina the lead.
The match eventually finished in a 1-1 draw after Eduardo Vargas equalised for Chile in the second half.
Maradona is an iconic figure among Argentine football fans for the way he led his team to World Cup victory in Mexico in 1986 and the way he played the game on the pitch (despite near-constant chaos off it).
Before the unique, pre-match tribute, CONMEBOL released a statement saying: “Maradona left earthly life, but his goals and dribbles will remain and will be an eternal legacy for South American football.
“He has a tireless way of playing and never got tired of believing in big things.”
Featured image credit: PA Images/Twitter