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Maradona, centre, was the star attraction at the El Casco Tennis Club in Marbella.
Diego Maradona, the star attraction even at a Costa tennis tournament

Diego Maradona, the star attraction even at a Costa tennis tournament

The Argentinian, perhaps the greatest ever footballer, died this week aged 60, but will forever be remembered for his ability to draw a crowd wherever he went

Héctor Barbotta

Friday, 27 November 2020, 19:47

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The summer of 2008 was ending and the Spanish Davis Cup team was preparing to travel to Mar del Plata where they would beat the home team 3-1 in spite of an untimely injury to Rafa Nadal.

In Marbella, a wise businessman understood that that unprecedented Davis Cup final presented a business opportunity. Without hesitation, he organised an exhibition tournament for players on the verge of retirement: Moyá and Ferrero on the Spanish side and Cañas and Acasuso for Argentina would face each other at El Casco Tennis Club.

However, when he realised that a clash between players who were past their best wasn't arousing enough interest, he invited Diego Maradona to promote the event and the tickets sold out immediately.

At that time Maradona was 48 years old, he had been retired for 11 years and, although he was about to be hired as his country's national coach, his occupation at the time was the same as it always had been: being Maradona.

He arrived in Marbella on Friday 5 September 2008 from Beijing, where he had been cheering on the Argentinian team at the Olympics, and held a massive press conference at the Guadalpín hotel, where he was staying. For almost an hour he left no question unanswered. Not even those of the fans who had snuck in to see the legend up close, nor those of the journalists who couldn't help but act like fans around him.

Those who attended the two following days were able to see in the flesh how difficult it was to be Diego Maradona. During the first day of the tournament, matches had to be stopped because of the number of people asking for photos and autographs. On the second day, security had to be stepped up so the action could go ahead with some normality.

No one could have predicted the amount of attention his presence would attract. All interest in the event was concentrated on the main man in the stand.

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