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Maradona wants a soccer project to return to Kolkata

Posted on 10 Dec 2008 | IANS

By Sirshendu Panth, Kolkata, Dec 10: The highly instinctive Diego Maradona took the organisers of his visit here by surprise more than once. But the soccer legend's childlike simplicity has become the talking point of those who came in close contact with him during the two-day trip to the city.

And on his part, the Argentine is so overwhelmed by the public adulation he received here that he is keen on returning to the city next year.

"When I went to see him off at the Kolkata airport Monday, Maradona told me that given a proper project he would like to return to India and work for the development of the Indian Football School (IFS)," Lok Sabha member Samik Lahiri told IANS Tuesday.

Maradona Saturday laid the foundation stone for IFS, a soccer academy in Maheshtala, 13 km south of the city.

Maradona told Lahiri to come up with a project for the academy. "He said he will work on the project for a month and then send it back to us. And if everything goes well, he could come back by next year-end. Of course, it could also be that Maradona was being courteous," Lahiri said.

When Lahiri asked Maradona whether he will remember the city, the soccer great showed him his right wrist which had some red scars -- a result of so many people touching him and shaking his hand.

"He joked that as long as these scars are there, he will remember Kolkata. But then he turned emotional and said he will remember the city for its euphoric fans and frenzied love for soccer. He said he was greatly touched." Lahiri said.

However, another organiser said the superstar often took them offguard.

On Sunday, Maradona was scheduled to leave for Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity at 10 am. "But he was a little indisposed, and did not come out in time. Suddenly at 11 am he rushed out with his girlfriend Veronica and straightway got into the car, taking everyone by surprise."

Even the pilot vehicle driver and security personnel were completely unprepared and had to rush to their vehicles.

Again, at Saturday's media meet, Maradona was to answer about ten questions in 15 minutes. But he seemed to enjoy the interaction, and it continued for 40 minutes.

Maradona's show at the Mohun Bagan ground was yet another example of his impulsive nature. He was scheduled to only watch the match, but he got on to the ground and started showing his football skills kicking the ball about. And he went on and on regaling the crowd.

But it was Maradona's cherubic smile and childlike emotions that impressed everyone here. "As a person, he is great. Deep inside, he is as simple as a child," said one of the organisers who was by his side throughout the trip.

"During informal sessions, you won't get a chance to talk. He will do all the talking himself. He would at times turn emotional too," he said.

"His life revolves around football, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara and conditions in Latin American countries," he said.

Music and painting are also close to Maradona's heart.

"He likes rhythmic music. He has taken with him a CD of the theme song on him specially cut for the trip," Lahiri said.

At Sunday's charity dinner, where Maradona's soccer gear and photographs went under the hammer, a painting of the Argentinian done by famed Wasim Kapur was to be put up for auction. "But when Kapur presented the painting to Maradona, he liked it so much, that he said he would take it home."

He also took two other paintings with him, one of Che Guevara presented to him by a youngster at Maheshtala and the other given to him by another teenager at the hotel. "When his luggage was being packed, he had asked more than once about the three paintings."

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