Diego Maradona: Huge crowds bid farewell as Argentina grieves

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Huge crowds of fans have been paying their final respects to football legend Diego Maradona in the Argentine capital Buenos Aires.

Thousands filed past the footballer’s coffin, weeping, blowing kisses and praying. Later people lined the streets as his funeral cortege passed by. But there were tense scenes as police tried to control unruly crowds.

Three days of national mourning have begun after the national hero died of a heart attack on Wednesday aged 60.

Maradona’s coffin – draped in Argentina’s national flag and football shirt, bearing his trademark number 10 on the back – was on public display at the presidential palace on Thursday. By mid-afternoon queues stretched back for more than a kilometre, and police clashed with mourners as they tried to close off the palace in anticipation of the wake scheduled for 16:00 local time (19:00 GMT).

There were reports of tear gas and rubber bullets being used as officers in riot gear struggled to hold back the crowd. Diego Maradona “will live in our heart forever”

One well-wisher, Rubén Hernández, thought the police had overreacted.

“We were calm lining up and suddenly, the police started to fire rubber bullets,” he said, quoted by Reuters news agency.

“Crazy, I just want to say goodbye to Diego.”

The authorities then extended access to the casket for a couple more hours, but it was still not enough for many mourners to reach the coffin.

The motorised funeral cortege then drove his body to the Bella Vista cemetery on the outskirts of the city, where he will be buried in a private ceremony.

Photos of Maradona below: