Tens of thousands of fans, many weeping, filed past the coffin of soccer superstar Diego Maradona on Thursday in Buenos Aires, in ceremonies that mixed head-of-state-like honors with the chaos of a rowdy stadium. Viewing was halted shortly before 6pm as the family wished, and the body of the Argentine icon was taken away for burial, frustrating many that were waiting to pay their respects. Fans singing soccer anthems, some draped in the national flag, formed a line that stretched more than 20 blocks from the Plaza de Mayo, where Argentines gathered to celebrate the Maradona-led triumph in the 1986 World Cup. But with the time for viewing the coffin at the nation's presidential palace drawing short, the AP reports, police moved to cut off the back end of the crowd, enraging fans who hurled rocks and other objects at officers, who responded with rubber bullets.
The crowd overwhelmed organizers, and the violence resulted in injuries and arrests, which led Maradona's family to end the public visitation; the casket was placed in a car. Desperate to say goodbye, Maradona's fans climbed on the fences of the presidential mansion as if they were in a soccer stadium, while firefighters worked to clear the ground. "Diego is not dead, Diego lives in the people," people chanted as the coffin was taken to a cemetery outside Buenos Aires. The motorcade was followed on a local highway by dozens of honking cars and motorcycles. Maradona died Wednesday of a heart attack in a house outside Buenos Aires where he had been recovering from a brain operation. The lines started forming outside the presidential palace only hours after Maradona’s death was confirmed. "He made Argentina be recognized all over the world," one mourner said. "Who speaks of Maradona also speaks of Argentina."
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