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Diego Armando Maradona won many hearts and supporters on his visit to Qatar at the opening of the Aspire Academy of Sports Excellence
(Aspire Dome) alongside Pele on 17 November 2005.
The winner of the 1986 World Cup was the cynosure of all eyes as visitors and admirers lined up for his autographs, handshakes and photo sessions. No one was excluded from Maradona’s charm, as most of the people at the iconic Aspire Academy stared in awe at the football hero.
After the opening of the Aspire Dome, Maradona lauded Qatar’s insight in creating a splendid sports academy and urged children to be given the chance to excel under the tutelage of experienced trainers at the academy.
Maradona trained with some of the Aspire youth players under the watchful eyes of their coaches in the Aspire pitches. His playing exploits and memories captivated many of Qatar’s fans, and this was evident during the time he visited the country.
On November 18, 2005, Maradona visited the Al Sadd Sports Club, where he demonstrated his talents to hundreds of fans at the club’s play turf. Maradona also wore the headgear to the admiration of fans at the club premises. I remember a particular fan who came with his family to catch a glimpse of the great Argentine. He said Maradona’s feats at the 1986 World Cup were an attraction for him to enjoy soccer. He said he wouldn’t have believed that he would meet the legend in person in Qatar.
Another fan said he was willing to take a snapshot of the legend and retain it as a remembrance for the rest of his life.
In 2013, Maradona travelled to Qatar again this time as UAE side coach Al Wasl.
He led the club to book their place in the final of the Gulf Champions League after a 4-2 overall victory over Qatar’s Al Khor in the two-legged semi-final.
It was a match to recall how many people came to see the game because of the soccer legend. Most of the Al Khor players hurried to the former manager of Al Wasl for photographs and shared greetings. Fans were not left out when the World Cup winner signed autographs and posed for photos.
We all wished that the great legend would be back in Qatar for the FIFA World Cup 2022 but sadly he is no more but his beautiful memories will surely contnue to inspire the footballing world.
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