Kerala jeweller to build museum in Maradona's memory

Boby Chemmanur, an admirer and "good friend" of Diego Maradona, who died on Nov 25, has announced that he will build a world-class museum in honour of the football icon.

It will house a life-size gold sculpture representing "The Hand of God", as the Argentinian forward described his crucial goal against England in the 1986 World Cup which his team went on to win.

"The proposed museum will come up in Kolkata or South India over several acres," said Mr Chemmanur, 58, who owns a jewellery chain, on Monday. "It will showcase Maradona's professional and personal life.

"The museum will blend the aesthetics of art and technology."

Recalling his "close friendship" with Maradona for a decade, Mr Chemmanur, who is the managing director of the Boby Chemmanur International Group, said his bond with the football legend began in Dubai in 2011.

Later, Maradona inaugurated a Chemmanur jewellery showroom in Dubai. "I gifted Maradona a miniature gold statue of his figure. Accepting it, the football star expressed the desire to see his life-size gold sculpture related to 'The Hand of God'," said the businessman.

The 157-year-old Boby Chemmanur Group, headquartered in Thrissur, Kerala, and with more than 50 outlets across the globe, had Maradona as its ambassador after the Argentinian signed a deal in March 2011.

He visited Kerala in October 2012 to inaugurate a Chemmanur Jewellers showroom in Kannur.

"The museum is my tribute to Maradona. It will be a storehouse of information related to the great player and his football. It will function as a centre for entertainment of international standards," said Mr Chemmanur.

The curator of the museum will be artist-writer Bony Thomas, a founder-trustee of the Kochi Biennale Foundation that conducts India's biggest contemporary art festival.

Maradona's death has come as a shock to people in Kerala, the only Indian state to declare two days of official mourning. They who have been flocking to a room at the Hotel Blue Nile in Kannur where the football legend once slept.

The Argentinian is so revered in the state that even the shells from the prawns he ate during his visit in 2012 have been freeze-dried and framed.

Hotel owner Ravindran Veleimbra said that everything Maradona touched in Room 309 has been preserved.

"We have saved the cutlery, toiletries and even the bouquet that we gave him. The flowers have dried but it's all framed," he said.

"The prawn shells that were part of the salad he ate are also displayed, along with footballs and a menu that the World Cup hero signed.

"People ask us specifically for a stay at the Maradona room. Everything that he touched is still intact and his fans want to experience that."

Veleimbra said he will now set up a Maradona statue.

"He hugged me while he was leaving and to this day I can feel him around," said the hotel owner.

Indo-Asian News Service, AFP

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