Doctored photo of Pelé ‘bidding farewell’ to Maradona circulates online

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A photo purporting to show football legend Pelé grieving by the grave of Diego Maradona is circulating online following the icon's death on November 25. However, the image has been doctored and shows neither Pelé nor the late Argentine player's grave.

"Legendary football star, Pele, pays last respect to late Maradona (sic)," reads the caption on a Facebook post by News Direct, a Nigerian page with more than 450,000 followers.

The accompanying image appears to show Brazilian former football star Pelé kneeling by a tombstone marked "Diego Maradona". 

Screenshot of Facebook post taken on December 2, 2020

Renowned along with Pelé as one of the greatest footballers of all time, Maradona's death aged 60 from a heart attack on November 25 sparked an outpouring of emotion around the world, including in his native Argentina, where three days of national mourning were declared.

The image has been circulating on social media around Africa, including in Angola, Kenya and Madagascar, but also in Italy, where it was shared by former deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini.

While Pelé did indeed pay tribute to his former rival, tweeting that he hoped they would one day "play together in the sky", the photo does not show him kneeling at Maradona's grave.

A reverse image search using Yandex reveals the picture has been doctored from a stock photo of a man laying flowers at an unmarked grave, which is available on various sites such as iStockphoto, Getty Images and PeopleImages.

Screenshot of original photo available from iStockphoto, taken on December 2, 2020

There are various visual similarities between the original stock photo and the doctored image, including the bunch of flowers, the shape of the tombstone and trees in the background. The doctored photo features warmer colours, while the man's hands have been darkened and Pele's face added.

The original stock photo (left) and doctored photo (right)

Furthermore, photographs from Maradona's burial on November 26, 2020 show that tombstones in the Jardin Bella Vista cemetery in Buenos Aires province, where he was buried, are flat and not vertical like the one shown in the picture.

Aerial photos from Maradona's burial (Emiliano LASALVIA / AFP)

Facebook users also pointed out that Pelé, 80, who has struggled with poor physical health in recent years, would have found it difficult to bend down.

He has suffered a series of hip problems and has taken to using a walker at his increasingly rare public appearances.

EDIT 02/12/20 - Fixed typo in eight paragraph
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