Argentine billionaire Eduardo Eurnekian is preparing to fulfil an old promise to the late football icon Diego Maradona by erecting a statue of the player at the country’s main airport. Eurnekian, founder of Corporacion America Airports and one of the country’s top businessmen, announced the plan in a note of condolences published in newspaper La Nacion on Friday.
“Rest in peace. You’ll have your statue!” the notice reads.
The life-size statue will be 3D-printed and depict Maradona in his glory days, according to Eurnekian’s spokeswoman, Carolina Barros. The statue is expected to be ready sometime in December.
It’s another sign of the fervor convulsing Argentina after the sudden death of Maradona, who led Argentina to win the 1986 World Cup and multiple league championships in Italy and at home, granting him the sort of iconic status normally reserved for war heroes. The government declared three days of mourning after his sudden death on Wednesday, and thousands turned out Thursday for his wake at the presidential palace.
Eurnekian’s group controls more than 50 airports around the world with 37 of them Argentina, including the Ministro Pistarini International Airport in Buenos Aires, also known as Ezeiza, where the statue would be placed. Eurnekian’s net worth is estimated by Forbes at about US$ 1.1 billion.
Eurnekian and Maradona’s long personal history spanned decades. Their relationship began in 1978, introduced by Cesar Menotti, the manager of Argentina’s national soccer team, who wasn’t able to include Maradona in the squad because the player was too young.
Eurnekian, who at the time had business interests in the textile industry, agreed to sponsor Maradona with monthly stipends until the next world cup.
Years later, when Eurnekian had the local license for the Puma brand, the businessman was key to connecting Maradona to the German company for a deal to represent it, Barros added.
Eurnekian, who had transitioned to become a communications mogul, remained involved even as Maradona’s career became tarnished with addiction issues.
The 87-year-old mogul of Armenian descent helped Maradona return to Argentina with Boca Juniors and later gave him a contract as a soccer commentator in his network. It was in their many conversations through those years that talk of a statue began.
It’s not the first time Eurnekian takes on causes emblematic to Argentina.
In the 1990s, he bought a house where tango icon Carlos Gardel was born to save it from demolition and donated it to the city of Buenos Aires to be used as a museum. Eurnekian also financed the construction of the Argentine military cemetery in the Falklands where the remains of Argentine soldiers fallen in the 1982 conflict rest. He also helped finance the trips of next of kin to the cemetery in the Falklands.
Besides his airports in Argentina also include cenotaphs that honor Argentine soldiers who died in the brief and bloody war with England over the Falkland Islands known locally as Las Malvinas.