“Having tattoos of Diego for me is the greatest thing there is,” said Fernando, whose bedroom walls are lined with pictures and shirts of the player. “I’m going to take him to the grave.”
Maradona won the World Cup with Argentina in 1986 and sparkled for Italian side Napoli, where he became a legend for his skills and representing Naples in Italy’s poorer south. His image still appears drawn large on murals in the city.
In Argentina, fans have even named their children after the player, including twin girls Mara and Dona.
“It is love, it is my great love, my passion to have Diego (on my body) so he is always with me everywhere. I feel like he protects me,” said Nerea Barbosa, showing photos of the star.
“When I got the tattoo, many told me no, that it was not for a woman and a tattoo like that was so grotesque,” said Barbosa, adding that she felt both a feminist and a “Maradonian.”
“I say he was an idol for women too.”
Maradona’s death is likely to spark something of a battle over his legacy and inheritance. He has some eight children from Argentina to Cuba and Italy, with other paternity claims.
Nonetheless, his wild behavior in some ways endeared him even more with supporters, giving him an everyman feel of fallibility that has ingrained him into the national psyche.
“In reality, I don’t think about what people say, whether he’s good or bad or whether he’s an inspiration or not,” said Matias Disciosia, with a huge tattoo of Maradona’s name and the number 10 on his back.
“Everything related to Maradona is a source of inspiration for those who feel him and carry his soul.”
Devotee Luciano Zarate agreed.
“Maradona’s tattoo for me was so I could have him all the time with me, because he was my childhood,” he said. “Maradona was my childhood and adolescence. For me he is everything.”
(Reporting by Ueslei Marcelino and Leonardo Benassatto Writing by Adam Jourdan Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)