Kolkata gives euphoric welcome to Maradona

December 6th, 2008 - 3:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Dec 6 (IANS) Euphoria gripped this soccer-mad city as thousands of people thronged to watch Argentinian legend Diego Armando Maradona lay the foundation stone of the Indian Football School at Maheshtala, 13 kms south of the city Saturday.Clad in denims, Maradona seemed in high spirits, as he clapped, threw flying kisses and waved at the crowd, who waited anxiously for 40 minutes as the soccer great was late in leaving the hotel for the venue.

One hundred children displayed ball juggling skills and sung songs eulogising Maradona welcomed the football genius, who passionately reached out to his fans by coming down the dais and shaking hands with some of them.

Seeming to enjoy every minute of the festive spirit, Maradona unveiled the foundation stone with a press of a button and then touched it, much to the joy of the large number of lensmen.

“Best wishes. India is far off from my country. But I had no idea I have so many fans here,” Maradona said in a brief speech towards the end of the programme.

“I had no idea that such beautiful football is played here, people love football so much.

Long live India,” said the present the country’s soccer coach, as the crowd lapped up every word of the man who led his nation to World Cup glory in 1986.

Maradona was showered with gifts - small silver replica of the Taj Mahal, a sketch of his idol Che Guevara were among the presents handed over to him.

He also gave an imprint of his famous left foot, which will be preserved, kicked a football, and mingled with the crowd for a few minutes before leaving the venue.

Earlier, Maradona took off from the hotel in a helicopter that landed at Batanagar, from where he was taken to the function venue in a special bus with large windows to enable people have a glimpse of the soccer genius.

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