December 11, 2008

I had no idea I’ve so many fans in India: Maradona

KOLKATA: Dec 07, 2008: Kolkata Soccer legend Diego Armando Maradona said on that he was surprised by the response of the crazy fans who thronged in thousands to have a glimpse of him as he laid the foundation stone of a football school at Maheshtala in South 24 Parganas district on Saturday.

Blowing kisses in the air and waving to the crowd, the 48-year-old Argentine, dressed in a grey shirt and matching trouser, said he had not anticipated that his two-day visit would evoke such a huge response.

"I had no idea that football enjoyed so much fan following in this part of the world far from my home in South America," the soccer star said. "My country is far from here, but I never knew I have so many fans here," he said as the crowd kept shouting 'Diego, Diego'.

The soccer icon spoke to reporters for just two minutes in Spanish with the help of an interpreter. The Indian Football School is being developed by the Maheshtala Municipality in collaboration with a private company.

Maradona, who led Argentina to World Cup triumph in 1986, had flown into the eastern metropolis in the wee hours of Saturday to a tumultuous welcome. In a cheerful mood, with girl friend Veronica by his side, the legend signed autographs for children and shook hands with fans.
Maradona then proceeded to leave an imprint of his dreaded left foot, which tore open defences all over the world, on a slab of plaster of Paris for posterity.

He took off his shoes, rolled up his trouser and then pressed his left foot firmly into the plaster as the crowd cheered. A replica of the Taj Mahal was presented to him as also a portrait of revolutionary Che Guevara. Before winding up his visit, the legend picked up a football thrown at him, balanced it delicately on his leg for a moment before kicking it back into the crowd which went delirious.

West Bengal Sports Minister Subhas Chakraborty was also present on the occasion. Earlier, Maradona and his entourage flew in a helicopter from the metropolis to the venue of the function.

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