Who would have thought that a room in a four-star hotel located in the downtown coastal city of Kannur, Kerala, would have been transformed into a museum dedicated to soccer legend Diego Maradona, who met an unexpected death owing to cardiac arrest at the age of 60 this week.
It is true that the news of the Argentine football legend's sudden demise has left a void among scores of fans across the globe. Malayalis, however, are cherishing the memories of the icon when he made a two-day visit to Kannur to promote a jewellery brand in 2012.
The soccer legend had briefly put up at Hotel Blue Nile when he made a two-day visit to Kannur to promote a jewellery brand eight years ago. The footballer left the following evening after the photoshoot for the jewellery brand, the arrangement of which was made inside the hotel.
The 'Maradona Museum'
The 309-numbered room of the hotel has been turned into a "museum" of sorts, replete with real-life memorabilia and the articles he used and left behind. Room number 309 is now known as 'The Maradona Suite'. Its proprietor, V Ravindran, said in an interview to ANI that he wanted to pay a tribute to his football idol. He added that a commemoration was also organised this week in memory of the football legend.
The room has a photo of Maradona. The things he used during his stay has been framed and kept in the room. From the cigar he smoked to the newspaper, tea cups, bedsheet, the painting given to him by a fan and even the soap he used are kept in the room as his memory.
Ravindran said back then he had brought a chef from Kochi to prepare food Maradona enjoyed, particularly Russian cuisine.
Ravindran said, "When Maradona arrived in Kannur on October 23, 2012, he was staying in room number 309. For two days, Maradona stayed in this room. Being fans, we ensured enjoyable stay. All things used by him back then are kept here in his memory."
"Back then we didn't know it was Maradona who is coming to stay here. We were told a VVIP is visiting and a security check was carried out. They told us to make some corrections in the room and hall. We carried out the renovations. Later, we were told it was Maradona, and being an ardent fan of him we made sure that he enjoyed his stay here," he said.
Maradona landed at the Kozhikode airport on October 23, 2012, and had arrived in Kannur in a chartered helicopter. Upon his arrival, the legend was welcomed with a bouquet and was felicitated with a ponnada or a golden shawl. His secretary and interpreter introduced Maradona to the hotel staff, before proceeding to his room where he was offered tender coconut water
"He had liked Kerala fish and loved the prawns we served," Ravindran added.
Following the legend's demise, there is a renewed interest in the hotel with football fans dropping by to take a peek into the suite, while booking enquiries have ostensibly gone up, says Ravidran.
During his visit to Kannur, the stadium in which Maradona participated in an event had witnessed a sea of people and the football legend had celebrated his 52nd birthday with them.
Maradona captained Argentina to victory at the 1986 FIFA World Cup and was widely regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all time. Maradona had begun his professional career with Argentinos Juniors at the age of 16 and he went on to become one of the greatest players to ever play the game of football. He represented Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Napoli, Sevilla, and Newell's Old Boys as a player.