The three-day mourning process in honour of Diego Maradona’s death has encompassed more than just grief. There have been multitudinary gatherings on the streets of Buenos Aires with little to no concern for COVID-19 safety measures, riots, robberies, clashes with the police, disrupted political agendas, the bashing of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and even disrespect for Maradona himself. Is that the righteous way to salute an international icon?
Diego Armando Maradona was the god of football for millions around the globe, having inspired generations with his talent and passion for the sport. When the news of him passing away spread, Argentina and a considerable part of the world were swept with grief and shock. Still, things didn’t end there. After the government declared a three-day mourning process during which the president Alberto Fernandez’s scheduled political agenda was canceled altogether, chaos began to unfold. As a local Argentinian yet an “outsider” to most of the football scene, since I’m nowhere near being a passionate fan of the sport, I’m here to tell you about this unfortunate aftermath.
First of all, the day Diego Maradona died happened to also be the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, as stated by the United Nations. There shouldn’t be else much to say about this, right? Well, that’s sadly not the case at all. There have been some disrespectful fans of the god of football that decided his grief was bigger and more important than the one of all Argentinian women. On an Instagram post commemorating such a crucial date for all women, several fans took the time to leave ill-mannered comments. “International Day of Dieguito,” read one of them. “25th of November Diego died, not this crap,” said another. “Who cares about you? Today a god died,” was one of the many. “Today is the day of Dieguito, move this for another time,” read one written by a girl with no apparent respect for her peers. There are thousands of comments like these ones.
I believe the sentiment has already been made clear. Instead of mourning their hero, many Diego Maradona fans decided to taint his memory by trashing a day that has been declared of international importance by the United Nations. The worst part is that the posts about Maradona’s death have little to no disrespectful or harmful comments against the player. There is no “Who cares about you?” Then what could possibly be the point of such uncivilized actions? I’m left to wonder, and hopefully so are you. It is truly disheartening, as a woman myself, to see such a lack of empathy and respect instead of a celebration of the accomplishments of a national football legend.
To continue with this dreadful narrative, we have the many, many problems that came with the multitudinary wake of Diego Maradona. This wake, organized by President Fernandez himself, took place at the Casa Rosada, the government headquarters of Argentina, from 06.00 am to 16.00 pm on the 26th of November. Anyone who wanted to come and say one last goodbye to the legend was welcomed. But there’s one detail that was grossly overlooked amidst all the mourning: the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Decree n.° 875/2020 regarding the new preventive and mandatory social distancing measures after finally ending the lockdown that lasted months in Buenos Aires, wakes and funerals cannot be attended under any circumstances by more than five socially-distanced people. This decree was stated by President Fernandez and thoroughly enforced in all cases. Then why were thousands of grieving fans gathered on the streets and the Casa Rosada this past Thursday? Of course, the pain caused to the fans by Diego Maradona’s death sparked a desire to say goodbye. To pay their respects in a deserving, meaningful way. Still, breaking the law in the government headquarters perhaps wasn’t the safest of ideas. Because, indeed, the multitudinous wake was an infringement of a decree stated by those who organized the gathering. And let’s see how the sanitary measures and protocols worked out.
As you can see, there were thousands of people gathered in hopes of entering the wake and paying their respects to Diego Maradona. A local infectologist, Hugo Pizzi, told El Intrasgente: “Unconsciously, today people went out looking for the virus. I was thoroughly looking and there was, for example, a line entering the room after the flags where the coffin is with their maks pulled down or completely removed, their hands up in the air and screaming.” Not only this but the agglomeration of such many people presents an environment perfect for the spread of the virus. Just when Argentina was starting to flatten the curve, an event like this could throw away all the progress and cause a second wave to come much sooner than expected. Here lies the question: Was it really worth it to risk the wellbeing and lives of thousands for one last goodbye to a legend? I guess we will find out in a week or two.
Diego Maradona’s wake was supposed to last until 19.00 but it was suspended and prematurely finalized at 16.00. Why? Because of the multiple disturbances that took place. Several fans became impatient at being unable to see the casket and threw bottles, bricks, and metal fencing at police, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. This was followed by the police’s attempts to contain people from entering the building and causing even more rampage. There were also nine individuals detained for committing robbery and causing unrest. A 60-year-old man who had traveled to say his goodbyes to the god of football ended up beaten by the thieves who stole his wallet. What started as an emotive memoir of a national icon ended up being cut short by the family, seeing the disturbances, to have an early burial.
To end it all, Diego Maradona was also directly disrespected. An image surfaced the internet, posted by an employee of the mortuary who was handling the footballing legend’s funeral, of the man posing with the open casket and the corpse was visible from above the neck. Two other employees took the same picture. It’s not only unmannerly but also illegal to take and post a picture with a corpse on social media. And it in no way pays respects to an idol, that’s for sure. The three employees ended up fired and socially convicted, but the turmoil lingers on every fan’s memory.
So this was the aftermath of Diego Maradona’s sudden death. Filled with anomalies, risks, disturbances, and something that feels less of a goodbye and more of an unfortunate appropriation of the footballing legend. Maybe it was an overflow of grief, considering the tragic events of this year, an emotional catharsis that ended up in disarray. Whatever the cause, whatever the justifications, this is a very disheartening salute to an international icon.