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Maradona Memorial: Donning No 10 jerseys, former Kashmiri footballers take field for Argentine legend

Photo: KM/Umar Ganie

Srinagar: On a chilly November evening, a group of former national and international footballers wearing Maradona’s No 10  jerseys took the field decades after saying goodbye to soccer in Jammu and Kashmir.

It was an emotional reunion for players who had assembled to pay tributes to Argentinean soccer great Diego Maradona, who passed away this week. 

 

In fact, some of the players were taking to the field after saying goodbye to football years ago. It was the love for Diego Maradona that they decided to play the game again.

Photo: KM/Umar Ganie

Forty-five-year-old Sajid Yousuf Dar could not hold back his emotions when he donned a jersey after 13 years. He represented Team India as a player and later coach. In fact, during his stint as a coach for the women team, they won two gold medals in SAF games and the South Asian tournament.

“I said goodbye to playing football in 2003.  Later I joined Team India as a coach. I have coached under 13, 14, and 17 teams besides the women team. I have grown watching Maradona playing football. Today I decided to don the jersey again to pay tribute to this legendary footballer who has left for heavenly abode a few days ago. What better tribute than to play the game in his memory,” he said.

Mohammad Shafi Nari, 60, retired as deputy superintendent of police. During his heydays, he not only represented India but coached different clubs in Kashmir. Football was his first love and Maradona his ideal. Emotions ran high when he learnt about the death of Maradona. And when footballers decided to organize an exhibition match in Maradona’s honor, he was the first among the few to volunteer.

“I started playing football in 1975 as a midfielder. I joined different clubs. It is after 1993 that I have donned the jersey. It is because of the love for Maradona,” he said.

Organized by National and International Footballers Forum in collaboration with J&K Sports Council, the exhibition match was held at TRC AstroTurf on Saturday. Players were divided into two teams. One team wore the Argentinean team’s white jersey and another donned blue jersey of Napoli, the club represented by Maradona.

Photo: KM/Umar Ganie

Every jersey was marked 10, the number Maradona sported on his shirt during his lifetime. “His contribution to the game is immense. He was the god of football,” said Dar.

Photo: KM/Umar Ganie

The match was drawn as both teams scored three goals each. The team wearing a blue jersey dominated the first half. But the second-half belonged to the team wearing a white jersey.  Earlier, both teams and the audience observed two minutes of silence in memory of Argentinean great.