By Krishnakumar K H | ENS | Published: 25th October 2012 11:20 AM |
He came, he saw, he conquered. Diego Armando Maradona, the supreme entertainer that he is, gave 20 minutes of unforgettable joy to over 50,000 enthusiastic fans watching under a searing sun at the Municipal Jawahar Stadium in Kannur on Wednesday.
It was a perfect case of an all win situation for both the football magician, enjoying a massive fan-base in Kerala, and the admirers, thirsting for a footballing identity.
The legendary Argentinian, who was visibly overwhelmed by the fantastic response from the fans, soaked in the atmosphere - juggling, balancing and kicking footballs, dancing and singing his way into the hearts of the die-hards who had been waiting patiently for four hours.
Having given the fans much more than they had perhaps bargained for, Maradona screamed in Spanish “Viva India” (meaning ‘Long Live India’), till his voice went hoarse. Not satisfied, he thumped his chest and said, again in Spanish, “I love you all”. The overjoyed fans in Kannur, and Kerala, too had found a place in the heart of one of the greatest footballers ever to have played the beautiful game.
The moment of the day, when the whole stadium erupted in unalloyed ecstasy, came when Kerala’s own ‘Maradona’ IM Vijayan exchanged a series of little volleys and headed passes with the legend. Suitably impressed, Maradona then hugged Vijayan, marking a poignant episode in the celebrations during the inauguration of a private jewellery showroom and helicopter services here.
Ever one to identify himself with fans, being what sustains sport, Maradona was quick to veer away from any formal obligations that he was expected to carry out on stage to interact with fans, waving, blowing kisses and flashing a million-dollar smile in all directions, at every opportunity. By the time the clocked showed 20 minutes to 12 noon, ‘El Diez’ was drenched in sweat, from his energetic manoeuvres on the ramp.
Adding to the festivities, the fans joined in a chorus to give Maradona, set to turn 52 on October 30, advanced birthday wishes. And to the icon’s pleasant surprise, the organisers had in waiting young musician Charles, who sang and played on the guitar a Spanish birthday song. An excited Maradona, took on the gauntlet and proceeded to sing another hit Spanish number, much to the delight of the audience. He looked game for more, but given health concerns and the tight schedule, he signed off, “Ciao” — bowing in acknowledgement to the love for football and its superstar shown in no uncertain measure by the fans in Kannur.
The biggest sporting celebrity ever to visit Kerala, Maradona had arrived via the Cochin International Airport on Tuesday.