Diego Maradona (Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images)
By Reena Kumar
Argentine legend Diego Maradona is set to kick off the football carnival in India during his September visit, a month ahead of the City of Joy’s historic date with the FIFA U-17 World Cup Final.
It will be the 1986 World Cup winner’s second visit to the city after 2008 when thousands of fans gathered to welcome him at the airport past midnight. The 56-year-old said he is very excited to visit West Bengal after nearly 10 years.
“It is such an honour for me to be able to make this trip. Kolkata is a very special place and I have good memories from my trip there many years ago, the fans were fantastic,” Maradona said.
“India is a very passionate football nation, and I look forward to meeting a whole new generation of fans while continuing to spread the overwhelming love that I have for this beautiful game.”
The two-day visit to the city will be made more special as the icon will play a charity football match against city’s favourite son and former India captain Sourav Ganguly on September 19, the day which marks the beginning of the Durga Puja festival.
“This will be called the ‘Match for Unity’, and will not be an 11-a-side. We will try to ensure that Maradona remains in the spotlight. Besides Ganguly there will be a host of other celebrities. We are finalising the venue,” Satadru Dutta, the promoter of Maradona’s trip said.
Maradona will also be welcomed by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
“It will be followed with an award show where Maradona will be given the Lifetime Achievement award by the chief minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee,” Dutta said.
“We will also be having a football workshop with budding young talents as well,” he added.
The trip is sponsored by Dhulaiwala, an app-based laundry services as the Argentine legend will be seen inaugurating the Dhulaiwala palace.