South Africa

IN PICTURES: Diego Maradona’s January 2010 visit to South Africa

PICS: Diego Maradona’s January 2010 visit to South Africa

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - 18 January 2010: Security at O.R Tambo International airport was very tight as Argentina soccer coach Diego Maradona arrived in Johannesburg. Pic: Gallo Images/Foto24/Herman Verwey)

Diego Maradona, who passed away this week, was in charming form in these images as he paid visits to South African schools and to inspect facilities ahead of the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

In January 2010, just a few months before he would coach Argentina at the 2010 Fifa World Cup finals in South Africa, Diego Maradona paid a preliminary visit to these shores, to inspect the facilities and also to take time to visit disadvantage dschools in GaRankuwa and Soweto.

Children from Kgotlelelang Primary School and Lowe Middle School were dressed in Argentina strips as they greeted arguably the greatest ever man to play the game, the star of the 1986 Fifa World Cup finals, whose individual display in that tournament has still to be bettered.

“I have received many welcomes in my football career across the world, but the warmth you have shown me will make me not to forget this day in my lifetime. With each kiss and every hug, I felt I had a friend, so this is not our last visit to your area as we are still coming back during the FIFA World Cup,” Maradona said on his visit to GaRankuwa. 

A man of the people, who rose out of poverty with his amazing talents, was much loved across the globe, even as he courted controversy with his off-the-field antics.

Such is Maradona that it almost goes without saying that when he arrived in South Africa in January 2010, he had just served a two-month FIFA ban, for telling journalists to “suck it and keep sucking,” after Argentina had sealed World Cup qualification with a 1-0 win over Uruguay.

Here, he was all smiles, whether surrounded by joyous children or posing for pictures with South African Football Association Danny Jordaan.

Here are some of the pictures that captured of the visit of the man who sadly passed away after a cardiac arrest on Wednesday, aged 60 years old:

Argentinian soccer head coach Diego Maradona (R) plays football with apprentices of a football school on January 21, 2010 at the Selekelela Secondary school in Soweto. This was on his fourth day of a five-day visit to South Africa to inspect accomodation and facilities his team will use during their 2010 FIFA soccer world cup in June. AFP PHOTO PABALLO THEKISO (Pic: PABALLO THEKISO / AFP)

Argentinian soccer head coach Diego Maradona (C) flanked by 2010 Organising Committee CEO Danny Jordaan (L) greets workers in Soccer City Stadium on January 21, 2010 in Johannesburg.This was on his fourth day of his five day visit to South Africa to inspect accomodation and facilities his team will use during their 2010 FIFA soccer world cup in June. AFP PHOTO STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN Pic: STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – JANUARY 21: In this handout image provided by the 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee South Africa, Argentina head coach Diego Maradona and Danny Jordaan, CEO of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Local Organising Committee, pose during a visit to Soccer City Stadium, which will stage the opening match and final of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, on January 21, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Pic: 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee South Africa via Getty Images.

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – 21 January 2010: Diego Maradona during a visit to the Soccer City Stadium, which will stage the opening match and final of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. (Photo by Gallo Images/Foto24/Lauren Mulligan)

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