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Argentina’s Most Sacred World Cup Watch Party: Maradona’s Former Home

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BUENOS AIRES — Argentina had just punched its ticket to the World Cup final with a 3-0 victory over Croatia on Tuesday, but most Argentines on the party simply desired to poke around this stranger’s house.

There was a retiree taking selfies in a mirrored corner bar. A house cleaner frolicked the window of a bare bedroom. A tattoo artist checked out a backed-up toilet upstairs. And a hotel owner who had brought his mother-in-law was wandering around barefoot.

“Once I entered, I began crying,” said Osvaldo Bonacchi, 52, an air-conditioner repairman, who was beginning to tear up again on the spiral staircase resulting in the carpeted attic, where someone said there was a sauna. He had lived nearby for 15 years, and all the time wondered what it was like inside.

“To be here’s a dream,” he said.

The battered, three-story brick chalet in a quiet Buenos Aires neighborhood once belonged to the Argentine soccer hero Diego Maradona, and on this World Cup, it has turn into certainly one of the most popular places in Argentina to look at a match.

A neighborhood entrepreneur bought the home last month and has opened the doors for the past several games, paying for drinks and greater than 1,000 kilos of meat for tons of of friends, neighbors and strangers crowded around Maradona’s backyard pool to cheer on the national team.

“We began letting people in, after which they collapsed and began crying,” the home’s latest owner, Ariel Fernando García, 47, said of the primary party. “For me, he was an extraterrestrial,” he said of Maradona. “No man has given more joy to Argentines.”

Maradona died of a heart attack in 2020 at age 60 but stays certainly one of Argentina’s biggest figures. His story of a poor Buenos Aires boy rising to turn into certainly one of history’s biggest soccer players and the leader of Argentina’s 1986 World Cup championship team has made him a kind of deity on this nation of 46 million.

In actual fact, the Church of Maradona is a legally recognized religion in Argentina, now entering its twenty fifth yr, that claims tens of 1000’s of members with branches around the globe. Some Google searches will return slightly box of questions that other people searched, starting with: “Is Diego Maradona a God?”

So on Tuesday, as tons of of individuals streamed into Maradona’s former house, with its stained-glass windows and crystal chandeliers, there was an air of religion, devotion and sanctity, mixed with the scent of two large slabs of beef cooking on a spit out back.

“You may really feel him in here,” said Roxana Orio, a 35-year-old tattoo artist with Maradona’s No. 10 — the number he wore when he competed — engraved on her left ankle, as she toured the home together with her 8-year-old daughter.

There was the massive back yard with synthetic grass where Maradona would practice, the balcony where Maradona greeted fans on the road after the 1986 World Cup and the small bedroom, now empty, where Maradona once slept.

They ventured on to the garage where there was an old tube television. A friend of the brand new owner identified that it had once been in Maradona’s bedroom. People took photos.

Up a narrow staircase, there was a neglected bathroom with a bidet and a broken toilet, in the newborn blue of Argentina’s national team, after which a storage room with a hole within the ceiling and a box of old children’s books and schoolwork. One notebook appeared to belong to certainly one of Maradona’s daughters. “I would like to take a photograph of this relic,” Orio said.

Maradona bought the home within the early Nineteen Eighties, mainly as a present for his parents, but he lived there at various times over several a long time, based on local news reports and García, who spoke to the Maradona family concerning the home’s history in the course of the purchase. (It’s certainly one of several homes that Maradona owned in Buenos Aires.)

While the Maradona family lived there, García grew up nearby. He said he tried to peek contained in the house every probability he had, and celebrated outside it in 1986, when Argentina won the World Cup, and in 1990, when it made the finals.

Then, earlier this yr, he saw a news article that said the home had been in the marketplace for a yr and, if it didn’t sell in per week, can be sold to a developer who planned to demolish it and construct a condo tower as an alternative.

García called the real-estate agent who had listed the home and agreed to purchase it without an inspection. To secure it, he borrowed $50,000 in $100 bills from a friend (Argentina real-estate deals are sometimes accomplished in hard U.S. currency due to Argentine peso’s volatility) for the down payment. The ultimate price was $900,000.

“It’s just yet one more crazy thing my husband does,” said his wife, Marcela Vozza, standing on a crowded balcony above a sea of revelers on the road below following Tuesday’s victory.

García has followed a bumpy path to owning an Argentine legend’s home. He served two years in prison from 2002 to 2004 in reference to an assault that he said he carried out to guard a member of the family.

In prison, he finished his law degree, and since being released, has turn into a prolific businessman, buying and selling restaurants, buildings and other businesses. Today he runs a pharmaceutical maker, a food company and a firm that manufactures low-cost wires and cables.

After purchasing Maradona’s house, García’s first idea was to show it right into a kind of museum. But then he got one other idea when his family first saw it three weeks ago, after he received the keys.

García said his son had been recovering from a knife attack at a nightclub, and for the primary time because the injury, he lit up when he entered the home. García immediately decided he would open the home for the matches. “It began with that smile,” he said of his son.

At first, it was family and friends, but eventually the parties expanded as people invited others. By the point Argentina played Poland there have been roughly 700 people, he said. He hired caterers to cook beef, pork, gizzards and Argentina’s famed “choripan” sandwiches, made with chorizo. He served soda and water — but no alcohol.

“I’m convinced there are signs Maradona selected me in order that the home is about happiness — like what he transmitted on the sector,” García said. He planned to open the home again for Argentina’s World Cup final versus France on Sunday.

On Tuesday, the atmosphere quickly turned from tense to jubilant as Argentina’s goals piled up. A percussion band with a brass section pumped out songs written for Argentina’s World Cup team. Children shot blue silly string into the group. And, while the party was sober, loads of grown adults — including García’s mother-in-law — ended up within the pool with their clothes on.

At first of the second half, Argentina led 2-0, but some fans were still cautious. “The last time we were 2-0, things escalated quickly,” said Gaston Marano, a consultant, his eyes not leaving the screen, referring to Argentina’s quarterfinal match last week against the Netherlands that went to penalty kicks.

Moments later, Argentina’s star, Lionel Messi, wove around a defender and delivered a wizardly assist for the third goal.

“Now I can loosen up,” Marano said.

More bodies went into the pool.

Natalie Alcoba contributed reporting from Buenos Aires.

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