A funeral worker who sparked outrage for taking a selfie next to the open casket of soccer great Diego Maradona has begged for forgiveness and said he has received death threats.
The death from a heart attack of Maradona at the age of 60 prompted an outpouring of grief and three days of mourning in his native Argentina, where he is revered as national icon.
Images shared online showing Claudio Fernandez, his son Ismael and an unnamed third man next to the architect of Argentina’s 1986 World Cup victory provoked widespread anger.
One image shows a man doing a thumbs-up gesture and touching Maradona’s forehead, while others show the trio posing with the former Napoli legend.
“It was something instantaneous,” Fernandez, who lost his job, told Radio Diez. “I’d just raised my head and my son did it like any kid of 18.”
“We were getting ready to take Diego to the wake and my son, being a typical youngster, made the thumbs-up sign and had his photo taken.
“I ask for everyone’s forgiveness. I’ve worked for Maradona’s father and his brother-in-law. I’ve been close to Diego while he was alive. I would never have disrespected him while he was alive because he was my idol and it was not my intention after he died.
“I know a lot of people have been very offended and have taken it badly. I know it upset them. I ask all of them to forgive us,” he added.
The manager of the Sepelios Pinier funeral home, which prepared the body, told Argentina’s TN news channel the three men were not full-time employees, and had been outsourced by a third party.
“My dad is 75 and he’s crying. I’m crying. My brother’s crying, too. We’re all devastated,” Matías Picón said.
“We are a very upright family, we cannot believe what happened, we never had a complaint. In this business, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, but we have a history of honesty and responsibility. Everyone knows us in the neighborhood,” he added.
Meanwhile, Maradona’s lawyer, Matias Morla, revealed the identity of the third man on Twitter, writing: “This is Diego Molina, the author of the photo taken beside Maradona’s coffin.