Maradona pays homage to Mother Teresa (Lead)

December 7th, 2008 - 4:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Dec 7 (IANS) “Viva Maradona”, “Maradona, Maradona”, shouted frenzied fans of the Argentine soccer legend as he went to pay homage here Sunday at the tomb of Mother Teresa - the catholic nun revered worldwide as the Apostle of Peace.On a two-day trip to the city, Maradona Sunday spent half-an-hour at the Mother House, the global headquarters of the Missionaries of Charity founded by Mother Teresa in South Kolkata.

He lit a candle at Mother Teresa’s tomb, participated in a prayer session with the sisters of the order, and shook hands with the orphan children to fulfil a wish that he has nurtured for years.

“I wanted to see what Mother Teresa has done in this city. So I want to utilise this trip to visit the Mother House,” Maradona had said Saturday, disclosing why he had agreed to come to the city.

Mother Teresa, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, is known for her monumental work among the underprivileged.

Clad in a black T-shirt and jeans, Maradona arrived in a silver-white Mercedes at Mother House to deafening cheers from thousands of people who waited for hours on the streets and had perched themselves precariously on trees and walls of nearby buildings for a glimpse of the soccer genius.

He waved and threw flying kisses, as nuns of the order, draped in blue-white sarees received him on the narrow ally leading to the Mother House.

Once inside the courtyard of the building, Maradona and his girlfriend Veronica were welcomed with a blue-white garland by the sisters, who also seemed to enjoy every bit of their interaction with the soccer superstar.

evidently in high spirits, Maradona went round the building, and met the young orphans - some of them mentally challenged.

He patted the infants on the head and kissed and embraced them before proceeding to the room where the Mother’s grave lies.

Hands clasped, Maradona stood silently before the tomb and then lit a candle as the sisters chanted prayers.

Pindrop silence descended on the room once the prayers ended, as Maradona seemed to soak in the serenity of the place. He then knelt down and kissed the white marble tomb.

Maradona was also taken to Mother’s statue, while Missionaries of Chairty Superior General Sister Nirmala presented him a book containing the experience of some of those who have worked with the Mother.

Before leaving, Maradona went back to the kids. “Bye, bye”, he said.

Outside, frenzied soccer fans shouted “Viva Maradona”, “Maradona, Maradona”, sported Argentine jerseys and tried to break the barricade put up by the security personnel deployed in strength.

“I want to touch his feet - his left foot, and see what it is made of,” said a youth.

“If he doesn’t mind, I want to embrace him. Can you help me?” was another young Maradona fan’s plea to a scribe.

Kolkata, the soccer crazy hub of India, had accorded a tumultuous welcome to the hero of Argentina’s 1986 World Cup triumph since he landed in the city in the wee hours Saturday.

More than 50,000 exuberant fans spent a sleepless night as they assembled at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose international Airport and lined the route of his convoy upto the hotel.

Around 80,000 people turned up Saturday afternoon at the giant Salt Lake stadium, where Maradona was felicitated. He also laid the foundation stone of the Indian Football School at Maheshtala, 13 kms south of the city.

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