Legendary Diego Maradona finally kept his date with the football-crazy Kolkata by arriving in the city for his three-day private trip, which was originally scheduled in September. Sporting a blue T-shirt and a cap, the Argentine superstar and his female companion landed past 7 pm via Dubai and headed straight to the hotel in New Town, Rajarhat. This is the 1986 World Cup winner's second visit to the city after December 2008, when thousands of fans gathered near airport and lined up the streets well past midnight to welcome their football icon.
But with his latest trip mired in postponements more than once and an air of uncertainty till the last minute, it was a low-key arrival for Maradona, as only handful journalists and some officials were seen at the airport and the hotel.
"It is such an honour for me to be able to make this trip. Kolkata is a very special place and I have good memories from my trip there many years ago, the fans were fantastic," Maradona said.
"India is a very passionate football nation, and I look forward to meeting a whole new generation of fans while continuing to spread the overwhelming love that I have for this beautiful game."
Originally scheduled to arrive on September 19, on the day of 'Mahalaya' to kickstart the auspicious Durga Puja festival, Maradona was to unveil his statue besides inaugurating a north Kolkata 'pandal'.
With Durga Puja over, Maradona's schedule has been altered a bit as he will now meet some cancer-afflicted patients at the same club and will also lay a foundation stone of his statue on Monday afternoon. He also has some sponsor committments towards the evening and will attend a gala dinner.
The much-hyped 'Dada versus Diego' exhibition involving Kolkata cricket icon Sourav Ganguly will now take place on December 12 on the outskirts of Barasat, about 35 kilometres from the city.
It is, however, not clear whether Maradona would play the full match after he underwent a shoulder surgery a few days back, while frequent change of dates would also mean many celebrities, who were originally slated to come, may give it a miss.