Argentina’s World Cup-winning goalkeep3r Emiliano Martinez landed to a rousing welcome at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose international airport in Kolkata on Monday as the football-mad city continued its tryst with the biggest football stars from around the world.
Kolkata, which has hosted legends like Pele, Maradona, Messi and Cafu, for the first time plays host to a reigning World Cup winner whose heroics in the penalty shootout in the 2022 FIFA World Cup final against France helped Argentina win its first world title in 36 years.
Martinez, who plays for English Premier League club Aston Villa, flew into Kolkata from Dhaka where he had met Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
He was given a warm reception by Mohun Bagan officials at the airport, while hundreds of fans wearing the Argentina jersey cheered for him.
Martinez, who was named the Golden Glove winner of the World Cup, said he had always wanted to come to India.
‘I am feeling great. It’s a lovely country. I am delighted to be here. I am really excited. I promised I am gonna come to India so I am here. It’s a place I always wanted to come,’ the goalkeeper said upon his arrival.
Martinez is scheduled with interact with about 500 school kids at Biswa Bangla Mela Prangan, before he heads to the Mohun Bagan football club where he is slated to felicitate 10 Bengal goalkeepers, including Bhaskar Ganguly and Hemanta Dora.
An exhibition match will be held between Mohun Bagan All Stars and Kolkata Police All Stars on Tuesday, while he will give tips to the youngsters as a part of a football clinic at the Santosh Mitra Square.
Soviet goalkeeping great Lev Yashin visited the City of Joy twice — once with the Soviet team who toured India in 1955 and as a chief guest during the IFA Shield final in 1973.
Kolkata also hosted Pele along with fellow World Cupper Carlos Alberto, who were part of the New York Cosmos for an exhibition tie against Mohun Bagan in 1977.
Diego Maradona, who steered Argentina to the World Cup title in 1986, visited Kolkata twice and his connection with the city was cemented in 2017 when he personally unveiled a statue of himself holding the World Cup, in the presence of thousands of fans.
German and Bayern Munich legend Oliver Kahn bid farewell to competitive football by playing an exhibition match against Mohun Bagan in the summer of 2008.
Gerd Muller, Karl Heinze Rumminiege and Diego Forlan had also graced the city.
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