DOHA: Diego Maradona’s former teammates gathered at the World Cup in Qatar on Friday to pay their respects to the icon on the second anniversary of his death, reminiscing about better days as Argentina recovered from his sting thwarted by Saudi Arabia.
Considered one of the greatest football players in history, Maradona died at the age of 60 on November 25, 2020, after battling drug addiction and alcoholism for years.
Despite his death, Maradona remains very present in the minds of Argentine fans. Scores still wears his shirt, sings about his ‘Hand of God’ goal against England in the 1986 World Cup quarter-final and furiously debates whether comparisons to Lionel Messi are even appropriate.
At the CONMEBOL Tree of Dreams in central Doha, an area celebrating South American football, FIFA President Gianni Infantino greeted former Maradona teammates, who took turns describing his greatness on and in outside the field.
“We don’t just need to pay tribute, but celebrate Diego,” Infantino said. “I wish there was a day to celebrate Diego Armando Maradona at every World Cup in the future.”
Richard Giusti, who played with Maradona in the 1986 and 1990 World Cups, said it was impossible to compare him to Messi, who with his goal in the 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia became the first Argentine to score in four different World Cups.
“We cannot compare them. We can’t say if one is better than the other,” said Giusti. “They’re different. They’re both geniuses. And Argentinian. You have to take advantage of that.”
Messi, perhaps in his last World Cup at 35, converted from a penalty in the defeat to Saudi Arabia. The Argentina captain described it as a blow and promised they would regroup for their Group C game against Mexico on Saturday.
Jorge Burruchaga, winner of the 1986 World Cup final, said Argentina had no room for error in their upcoming matches.
“Let’s hope that tomorrow Leo (Messi) will have the game that everyone wants,” he told Reuters. “And our tribute to Diego today is the least we can do for a footballing genius, for someone who touched so many people.”
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