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SPORTS | 29-11-2020 08:41

Tears and memories as Argentina's top flight returns without Maradona

The first games in Argentina's top flight since the death of Diego Maradona kicked off Saturday amid tears and memories, with the club he last coached notching up a victory in tribute to the footballing genius. 

The first games in Argentina's top flight since the death of Diego Maradona kicked off Saturday amid tears and memories, with the club he last coached notching up a victory in tribute to the footballing genius. 

The current top-flight competition, running from October to January 2021, was to be called the Copa de la Liga Profesional 2020 this year, but it has been renamed the Copa Diego Armando Maradona, the Argentine Football Association (AFA) confirmed this weekend.

On Saturday, players from Racing Club and Unión de Santa Fe entered the pitch at Avellaneda wearing national team shirts with Maradona's number 10 on the back.

They warmed up to the sound of "Life is Life" – a song made wildly popular by an accompanying video of the Argentine great performing feats of magic with the ball.

Standing around the centre circle, they marked the legend's passing with a minute's applause. 

A kite in the national colours was released, in reference to the "Cosmic Kite" moniker given to the diminutive playmaker by commentator Victor Morales after his "Hand of God" goal against England in the 1986 World Cup.

"He is a great one, it goes without saying," said Racing midfielder Walter Montoya, unable to hold back tears during the tribute. "There is no need to say anything else, all words are futile."

Maradona's last public appearance came four weeks ago for his 60th birthday celebration at the stadium of Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata, the club he was coaching before he underwent an operation to remove a clot on his brain.

He died in his sleep on Wednesday aged just 60, plunging his homeland and football globally into mourning.

Gimnasia paid their own tribute to the star with a 1-0 victory over Vélez in Buenos Aires in a later Saturday fixture. 

Several Gimnasia players coached by the legend were also on the verge of tears before kick-off.

"It was crazy to play, because we are still reeling from this blow," midfielder Victor Ayala said after the match. 

"But we did what Diego taught us... For us, he was like a father, calling us whenever we needed something... From up there, he must be proud of this team."

Jorge 'Fatura' Broun, the Gimnasia goalkeeper, wore a yellow stripe in his hair, similar to the famous look that Maradona had had 25 years ago, when he returned to play in Boca.

– TIMES/AFP

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