BUENOS AIRES (REUTERS) - The father of Argentine great Diego Maradona died on Thursday at the age of 87 after a battle against heart and respiratory problems, local media reported.
Don Diego stood by 1986 World Cup winner Maradona throughout a turbulent career during which the player dazzled on the soccer field but also succumbed to drug and alcohol abuse.
Maradona rushed to Argentina from Dubai earlier this month to be with his father as his health deteriorated, having always regretted not seeing his mother, known affectionately as Dona Tota, in the days before she died in 2011.
Soon after returning to Buenos Aires he expressed his pain at watching his father's life ebb away but relief at seeing him in time.
"I'm calm after not having managed to get here and give my old lady a kiss," Maradona told a local radio station after visiting his father in hospital earlier this month.
Don Diego, a factory worker, came to Buenos Aires from the northern province of Corrientes in the 1950s, raising eight children in the Villa Fiorito shanty town on the southern edge of the capital.
His first child, Diego, was born in 1960.
When Maradona was nine a hard-up Don Diego refused to let him attend trials at first division Argentinos Juniors because there was not enough money in the sport.
But he shone for the Villa Fiorito team and Argentinos Juniors scout Francis Cornejo, the man who discovered him, persuaded Don Diego to give way.
"Pelusa" (Fluff), the nickname Don Diego and Dona Tota gave Maradona, played for the club's junior side "Cebollitas" (little onions) and they launched him on the journey to football's summit.
A quiet man, Don Diego occasionally cooked "asados" (barbecues) for the Argentine national team, even on tours such as the 1986 World Cup triumph in Mexico.