By Mukwuzi Joseph
Impatient fans were confronting police as thousands lined up to say goodbye to Diego Maradona on Thursday at the Argentine presidential mansion staging the funeral of one of football’s greatest stars.
Fans threw bottles and metal fences at police near the Casa Rosada in the heart of Buenos Aires.
Open visitation started at 6:15 a.m. local time (0915 GMT) after a few hours of privacy for family and close friends.
Maradona died on Wednesday of a heart attack in a house outside Buenos Aires where he recovered from a brain operation on Nov. 3.
The lines started outside the Casa Rosada only hours after Maradona’s death was confirmed. Among those present were the renowned barrabravas fans of Boca Juniors, one of his former clubs.
The first fan to visit was Nahuel de Lima, using crutches to move because of a disability. At the same time, a wave of people tried to get ahead and confronted police, who used tear gas to contain them.
Bodyguards were stopping fans from taking pictures and controlling access to the building. Many fans were breaking down as soon as they left.
Fans who walked past the casket blew kisses into the air, struck their chests with closed fists, and shouted “Let’s go Diego.” Most, but not all, wore masks due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A giant black screen in front of the Casa Rosada is showing historic photos of Maradona as fans go.
Some fans were also pictured outside the Buenos Aires stadium where Maradona began his career setting up a makeshift shrine to celebrate Argentina’s legendary number 10.
Maradona, regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all time, was the inspiration for Argentina’s World Cup success in Mexico in 1986, winning the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player.
He also led the country to the final of the 1990 tournament in Italy although his international playing career ended in shame when he failed a drug test at the 1994 World Cup in the United States.
He played club football for Boca Juniors, Napoli, and Barcelona among others, and was adored by millions of fans for his football talent.
During his time with Italian side Napoli, he won the Serie A title in 1987 and 1990, along with an Italian Cup in 1987 and a Uefa Cup in 1991.
In 1999 and 2000 he was taken to hospital suffering heart problems, the second time requiring a respirator to breathe.
In 2004, he was again treated in hospital for severe heart and respiratory problems linked to his drug abuse.
He underwent two gastric bypass operations to control his weight and received treatment for alcohol abuse.
In January, he had surgery to stem bleeding in his stomach, and in July he underwent a knee operation.