He was the 'best ever' – Czech sporting legends pay tribute to Diego Maradona

The Argentine football star, widely thought of as the greatest player of all time, passed away yesterday.

Tom Lane

Written by Tom Lane
Published on 26.11.2020 11:23 (updated on 26.11.2020)

Maradona. A world cup winner. A sporting icon. One of, if not the greatest of all time.

The Czech sporting world has being paying tribute to Argentina player and coach Diego Maradona, who passed away aged 60.

Maradona had a limited experience with football in this part of the world but did feature in two friendlies against the then Czechoslovakia national team in 1980 and 1982.

Jan Fiala played against the attacker who would go on to lead his team to World Cup glory just four years after the second meeting.

He spoke to Blesk about his memories of the game.

“At that time, from my point of view, Maradona was not so famous yet. Of course, he was already an excellent footballer, the Argentines worshiped him as a god. He was to play at the 1978 World Cup, which Argentina won, but he was very young at the time, Coach Menotti didn't take him."

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“Over time, he got even higher. I can say that I have never played against a better footballer before or after. Never. He was an extraordinary football star, he managed to bypass three or four players. There really was no one better in my era."

Milan Baros who has been nicknamed “the Ostravan Maradona” took to Instagram, calling him the “best ever”, while former Czech Republic captain Tomáš Rosický posted an image of himself with Maradona saying “legends live forever,” and Petr Cech, the most capped player in the Czech Republic’s footballing history, echoed those sentiments, saying the legend “will never be forgotten.”

Maradona’s sporting talent transcended just football, with stars from across the spectrum expressing their condolences to his family. Tennis legend Martina Navratilova simply put “RIP Diego”, and Milan Hnilička, Chairman of the National Sports Agency putting out a longer message on Twitter, describing the Argentine as “a legend” and that “it was Diego who I wanted to be when I grew up.”

Tonight’s Europa League games will all have a minute’s silence to mark the death of the 60-year-old, that includes games involved Slavia Prague, Sparta Prague and Slovan Liberec. Maradona won what was then the UEFA Cup with Napoli in 1989.

The Argentine government has announced three days of national mourning with his body lying in state at the Casa Rosada.

The Argentine government said that Maradona's body will lie in state at the Casa Rosada government headquarters. (photo: iStock / naphtalina)
The Argentine government said that Maradona's body will lie in state at the Casa Rosada government headquarters. (photo: iStock / naphtalina)

Fans have been gathering outside his home in Buenos Aires as well as the stadium named after him where Argentinos Juniors play their fixtures. The mayor of Napoli has called for their stadium to be re-named after Maradona, who played for the Italian side, making over 250 appearances for them.

The San Paolo stadium in Napoli was lit up last night in tribute to Maradona while at Boca Juniors stadium Bombonera the lights were switched off apart from those in the box Maradona used to watch games.

His cause of death is yet to be confirmed, but CNN is reporting that it may be due to heart failure.

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Tributes from across the Czech sporting world