Wed, Jul 07, 2010 - Page 20 News List

2010 FIFA WORLD CUP: Argentine squad decline invitation

AFP , BUENOS AIRES

A supporter lifts his dog as he waits with other fans to greet the Argentine soccer team after their arrival at Ministro Pistarini Airport in Buenos Aires on Sunday.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Diego Maradona and his Argentina World Cup squad declined an invitation by Argentine President Cristina Kirchner to be received at the presidential palace because they deemed themselves unworthy, the president said.

Kirchner — who succeeded her husband Nestor as head of state in December 2007 — also said she had tried to speak to Maradona following the 4-0 hammering by Germany in Saturday’s quarter-final, but the former playing great had been too upset to talk.

“You know that this president shows her true colors to the people in the difficult moments and not just the good ones,” the 57-year-old told a rally in the northern suburb of San Miguel. “And I invited our squad to come to the Pink House [the presidential palace].”

“The players refused because they felt they did not deserve such an accolade, but I believe they are wrong because they all deserved it and I will wait for them. Yes, long live Argentina,” she said.

sadness

Kirchner, who was a senator for 12 years before being elected to the presidency, told all Argentines to be strong in such a moment of sadness, which saw the two-time winners fail to reach the last four for the fifth successive finals.

“On Saturday when Germany beat Argentina, Argentinians were very sad, but have patience [gather your strength] Maradona, the squad and the country, even if the sadness will last,” she said. “I called him [Maradona] after his press conference on Saturday, but he was not able to talk because he was crying.”

However, like most Argentinians, some of whom gave the squad a warm welcome at the airport, she offered her unqualified support to Maradona, who almost single-handedly inspired the Argentines to World Cup glory in 1986 where they beat West Germany and then to the final in 1990 where the Germans avenged their defeat.

pleasure

“I offer my support because nobody has ever given as much pleasure on the pitch than Diego Armando Maradona gave us,” she said.

Her speech went down well with her audience who answered with joyous cries of: “Ole, ole, ole, ole, Diegoooo, Diegooooooo!”

Maradona, who has serious financial worries, owing the Italian taxman nearly 40 million euros (US$50.1 million) in unpaid taxes and interest accrued, hinted on his return to Argentina that he was going to step down.

“That’s it, my cycle has finished,” Maradona reportedly said as he arrived at his home. “I gave all I had.”

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