It has been almost 30 years since Diego Maradona put an end to his remarkable fate in Naples, but a year after his death at the age of 60, the Argentine great is more present than ever in the Neapolitan world.

His name is sewn onto shirts, smeared on southern Italian city walls 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 that now bears his name – Stadio Diego Armando Maradona – to celebrate the “eternal” link with the “Pibe de Oro”, the boy.

Diego is everywhere, from 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 charitable purposes, these collector’s edition jerseys have long been sold out on the club’s website.

For those who set sail for Naples in memory of Maradona, the first stop is often the famous Mario Filardi fresco in the Spanish quarter painted in 1990 and restored in 2016.

It is a winding walk from the ferry terminal and the wandering pilgrim will certainly pass other pictures painted on the walls as well as posters for the film “The Hand of God”, Paolo Sorrentino’s homage to the Naples from the 1980s coming out in theaters in Italy this Wednesday.

“It was important to come,” said Aicha, 17, who braved heavy rains to meditate in front of the famous mural that shows a shaggy-haired Maradona in the powder blue Napoli jersey running fervently towards the goal.

It is in a modest environment, set back from the road, often found with a few cars parked out front.

But this courtyard is dedicated to the cult of the “god” Maradona, and adorned with photos, flags, shirts and other relics left by football faithful.

Aisha crossed Italy from Bari on the east coast, some 260 kilometers away, with his family to “see how the city remembers him.”

“You can see that it’s not just about Napoli jerseys, but most of the teams he’s played with, and pictures of him as a player and also as a man,” a- she told AFP.

“It’s interesting how normal people, not just supporters, bonded with him. “

Facundo Perez, 26, an Argentinian living in Europe, also came specially to Naples to “greet” Maradona, a year after his death.

“For me, Diego is a god. Seeing the flags, and the fact that he captured the heart of Naples, it’s crazy. I came here to try to understand how much people love him. “

Frescoes continue to flourish on the walls of Naples and the region beyond. Street artist Mario Casti, who has already produced ten last year, was still at work this week finishing another for the anniversary.

Maradona also inspired sculptor Domenico Sepe who created the work that will stand in front of the Naples stadium.

“The work was born out of personal need,” Sepe told AFP, looking at the barely finished sculpture at a foundry in the Pianura district.

“When he heard of his death, something was missing from my daily life. And as a Neapolitan and also as a supporter of Naples and as a sculptor, I decided to pay homage to him with a work that offers him eternity. “

A sculptor in the classical tradition, Sepe wanted his majestic bronze to present Maradona almost as a “Greek god”. charging up onto Argentina-shaped terrain.

It’s a pose reminiscent of the muscular Maradona who inspired Argentina to victory at the 1986 World Cup – although he obviously wears a Napoli jersey.

Another statue will be installed in the stadium on Sunday ahead of Napoli’s Serie A game against Lazio, when the home side will once again wear the famous “Diego shirt”.

Napoli are currently at the top of Serie A and there is no doubt that the most fitting tribute would be to win the title.

They’ve only done it twice before, in 1987 and 1990 when Maradona was really in her prime. No wonder the Neapolitans still revere him.

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In Naples, the cult of Maradona more intense than ever
In Naples, the cult of Maradona more intense than ever
Cult of Maradona is strong in Naples, one year after her death – News 24