BUENOS AIRES, Argentina: Three days of national mourning began in Argentina after world-renowned footballer Diego Maradona died on Wednesday at the age of 60.
His body will lie in state at the Casa Rosada, the presidential palace in Buenos Aires, during that time.
“To be Diego Maradona was incredibly beautiful,” Ardiles, a football manager, pundit and former midfielder, said.
“But on the other hand, it was not easy at all. Right from an early age, he was subject to the press all the time. He didn’t have a normal childhood, he never had normal teenage years.
“Everybody wanted to be with him, everybody wanted a piece of him, so it was incredibly difficult.”
Maradona, who played for clubs including Barcelona and Napoli, was captain when Argentina won the 1986 World Cup, scoring the famous ‘Hand of God’ goal against England in the quarter-finals.
Former Tottenham midfielder Ardiles, who played alongside Maradona at the 1982 World Cup, said he was “a god” in Argentina, in Naples and all around the world.
“He will be remembered as a genius in football,” he added. “You can see the extraordinary amount of interest that he generates.
“People like [Juventus and Portugal striker] Ronaldo, or people like [Barcelona and Argentina forward] Messi, they couldn’t even dream of having this kind of admiration.
“That was the Maradona phenomenon – all the time.”
A post-mortem examination was due to take place on Maradona’s body later on Wednesday after he died at about midday local time at his home in Tigre, near Buenos Aires.
Former Argentina attacking midfielder and manager had successful surgery on a brain blood clot earlier in November and was to be treated for alcohol dependency.
A minute’s silence took place before Wednesday’s Champions League matches and the same will happen before all other European fixtures this week.
Messi and Ronaldo were among current players to pay tribute, while Brazilian football great Pele said he hoped one day they would “play ball together in the sky”.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said Maradona “made world football better”.
“There was a banner in Argentina, one year ago, that I read that said: ‘No matter what you have done with your life, Diego, it matters what you do for our lives,'” former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss Guardiola added.
Former Tottenham manager and Argentina defender Mauricio Pochettino said: “Broken with pain. Diego, you were my hero and friend. I was so fortunate to have shared football and life with you.”
The Vatican said Pope Francis, an Argentine and a football fan, would be remembering Maradona in his prayers.
Maradona’s last words before he died were “I feel sick”, it emerged last night as the footballing world reeled from the shock of his death.
The Argentinian football legend suffered a heart attack at home on Wednesday just two weeks after he was released from hospital following surgery for a bleed on his brain.
Maradona won the World Cup with Argentina in 1986, having knocked England out in the quarter-final with the infamous ‘Hand of God’ goal and another – later voted ‘Goal of the Century’.