Diego Maradona was set to arrive home to a national outpouring of grief on Sunday after his desperate trip from Dubai to see his dying mother was too late, local media reported.
Dalma Franco de Maradona, known to Argentines as Dona Tota, died aged 81 on Saturday in a Buenos Aires clinic where she had been treated several times previously for a heart complaint.
The online newspaper elargentino.com said Maradona's personal doctor had confirmed that Maradona had learnt of his mother's death during his flight.
The news broke midway through the first division match between Independiente and Olimpo in the suburb of Avellaneda and a minute's silence was observed before the second-half kick-off.
Maradona, the eldest of her three sons and her fifth child, was very close to his mother and he had a new tattoo with the words "Tota I love you" put on his back before he moved to Dubai in August to coach UAE club Al Wasl.
She is said to have augured a bright life for her son when, at his baptism, a star from one of the church windows was reflected on the floor in front of them.
Maradona often recalls the sacrifices she and his father made for the family when they lived in a shanty town on the outskirts of the capital before their eldest son's genius as a soccer player lifted them out of poverty.
"He's the greatest thing life gave me," she was quoted as saying of her son.
He once said of her: "She always wanted us to eat. Every time the food arrived [at the table], she said she had a stomach ache. That was a fib, it was because there wasn't enough to go round. She's strong."
Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero, partner of Maradona's younger daughter Gianina and father of his first grandson Benjamin, wrote on his Twitter account: "A very sad day... Thanks for the support. We're all with Diego and the family."comments