Argentina honors Maradona anniversary, hopes memory can spur World Cup revival

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BUENOS AIRES, Nov 25 (Reuters) - Argentines honored soccer icon Diego Maradona on Friday, the second anniversary of his death, including with a huge new painting of the striker in the center of Buenos Aires, hoping to spur the national team ahead of a must-win World Cup game.

The South American country, which idolizes Maradona almost as a demigod, plays Mexico on Saturday in a make-or-break match after the team led by star player Lionel Messi fell to a shock 2-1 defeat against Saudi Arabia earlier this week.

Argentine urban artist Alfredo Segatori made an 11-meter high painting of Maradona, portraying him smiling, sporting a local Boca Juniors shirt and the Argentine flag, the World Cup trophy hanging from an earring, and wearing a turban in reference to 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

"I hope (the painting) reaches the national team and motivates them for Saturday," 52-year-old Segatori said. The gold framed painting shows Maradona as a regular fan supporting the team. "We all want him to be there cheering."

The new painting, installed next to advertising hoardings on a central avenue, adds to a proliferation of Maradona images in the city, including a giant mural by artist Martin Ron daubed on to a 13-storey building, completed a month ago.

Maradona died of cardiac arrest aged 60 on Nov. 25, 2020, after battling drug and alcohol abuse for years.

Widely considered one of the greatest soccer players in history, Maradona won the 1986 World Cup with Argentina and led them to the 1990 final when they lost to Germany.

"Maradona is reflected in every child, every youngster with that (soccer) passion," said Marcos Santucho, a 35-year-old teacher. "He left a mark and we will always remember it."

On Friday, former team mates including Ricardo Giusti and Jorge Burruchaga also gathered in Qatar to pay tribute to the former Napoli and Barcelona star.

Reporting by Belen Liotti; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel

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