New Delhi : Former India international Shabbir Ali has expressed grief at the passing away of one of football's greatest legends, Diego Maradona, who enthralled fans across the world with his skills and had wowed fans in India during his multiple visits to the country in the past as well.
The former Argentine captain and World Cup winner had, on his visits to India, met a number of footballing stars of the past and present.
Ali lamented the loss that the beautiful game has suffered after Maradona, 60, passed away on Wednesday in Argentina.
"It is really shocking to hear that he has departed. This is a big loss for football. He was such a world-class player and such a big personality in the game. The fact that he could single-handedly carry teams and mesmerise crowds is something that made him all the more special," Ali told the-aiff.com.
Ali, who has been a long-time fan of El Diego, had a few near misses with the Argentine legend in his younger years - firstly in 1984 when India played Argentina in the Nehru Gold Cup, a match for which Maradona did not come to India, and secondly in the FIFA World Cup 1994 in the USA.
"I was really looking forward to playing against him or meet him on those occasions. But sadly, he did not come with the team in '84, and 10 years later, at the World Cup, there was too much security around him," he said. "But, I was happy to have finally met him on his tour to Kolkata, where I was the coach in the charity match."
Another former India international who was present on this same occasion was Subrata Bhattacharya, who was the coach of the opposing side in the charity match.
"It was a brief meeting when we shook hands on the pitch and he asked me about which position I had played in back in my playing days, and which club I had played for," said Bhattacharya. "He was surprised to hear that I had been a defender for Mohun Bagan and said that he had heard a lot of good things about the club," he added.
Maradona led Argentina to victory at the 1986 FIFA World Cup and was particularly well-known for the two goals he scored against England in the quarter-final. One was later voted "Goal of the Century", while the other is generally referred to as the "Hand of God", a reference to the fact that the goal should have been disallowed for handball.