South Africa Football Association (Safa) president Dr Danny Jordaan says a “piece of football has died” following the passing away of Diego Maradona.
The Argentina great died at the age of 60 at his home in Buenos Aires of a heart attack on Wednesday.
Jordaan’s fondest memory of Maradona was when the former Barcelona and Napoli forward was in South Africa for the 2010 Fifa World Cup which was the first time the tournament was staged on the African continent.
Arriving in South Africa as Argentina coach, Maradona was keen to prove to the world that he was the right man to lead La Albiceleste amid doubts over his pedigree to lead the team.
Argentina had almost missed out on qualification for the 2010 World Cup.
“Maradona was a football man. He put a human face on football. He was always accessible to football supporters and to the youth,” Jordaan told the Safa website.
“He would immediately take the ball, juggle with it and pose for pictures. Maradona was a supporter of the 2010 Fifa World Cup in South Africa and the entire African continent. At one stage, he told me he was worried as Argentina almost failed to qualify for the 2010 Fifa World Cup. That qualification helped him to live his dream – to be the coach of his country in an African World Cup.”
While in South Africa, global media was on Maradona’s tail wherever he went, at one time mingling with school kids in Pretoria as well as South African football greats, a show of humility Jordaan praises.
“The staff behind the delivery of the event took pictures with Maradona at the headquarters of the 2010 Fifa World Cup. He then went to FNB Stadium to meet former South African footballers and that was a rewarding experience for both parties,” said Jordaan.
“So with Maradona’s death, a piece of football has died, the human face of football. He is clearly one of the greatest footballers ever to walk the earth. We will miss him, all those who worked in the 2010 Fifa World Cup, football will miss him.”
Argentina’s participation at the quadrennial tournament in South Africa ended at the quarter-final stage after they were drubbed 4-0 by Germany.