Your goal gave Argentina its last World Cup. Surely, that makes you feel really proud!

Of course. After me, no other Argentine footballer has scored in the final. Even though, Argentina has played two more finals. The previous chance came in the Brazil World Cup against Germany.

Argentina played well but couldn’t win that day. I know winning a World Cup is really difficult. It’s really disappointing for Argentina football that Argentina hasn’t won a World Cup in so many years.

default-image

I’ve read in old magazines that people in Argentina didn’t even expect that you guys would win the World Cup. What was the recipe behind Argentina’s World Cup success?

From the masses to the journalists, nobody was optimistic about our team at first. Because, in the practice match before the World Cup we couldn’t do well.

I joined the team directly in Mexico from Europe. I heard from the players that nobody came to the airport to see the players off before leaving for the World Cup. Not even their own family members. Actually, no one had any faith on us.

After reaching Mexico, we also didn’t keep contact with anyone. We just focused on the game. We players had complete faith on the new philosophy of coach Carlos Bilardo. After we won the World Cup, everyone tried to copy Bilardo’s football philosophy. We played the best football of our lives in Mexico.

Like Maradona, you also played a big part in Argentina’s World Cup win. But you never really gained popularity in Argentina!

Popularity was never an important thing in my life. Every player in the team knew Diego is just not the best player of the team but the best player in the world. Every player in the team followed Diego. He always wanted to become a champion.

He also used to inspire us to become champions. I didn’t want popularity, I only wanted to become a champion. Diego was our leader. Even after winning the World Cup for Argentina, his behaviour with the other players of the team remained the same. He never thought of himself as a mega star.

default-image

From various media we see that you shared a great friendship with Maradona. I want to hear the story of that friendship from you.

I had a very friendly relation with Diego and with everyone else. He was a very nice man, a brilliant leader. We played 11 World Cup matches in a row together.

I am the only one in the history of Argentina football to play 40 matches in a row with Maradona. I always remember him as a champion player and a good friend. Together, we fought for our country.

You are a witness to the two historic goals Maradona scored against England in the World Cup quarter-final. One of them was the ‘Hand of God’, the other one ‘Goal of the century’. I want to hear from you about the two goals.

Diego used to try to score like that during practice too. Sometimes he would score. But scoring a goal like that in the World Cup was a very different thing. That was just in practice but this was the World Cup! I was at the other side of the ground during the ‘Hand of God’, I couldn’t really see it.

Actually, Diego is a really smart player, it was impossible to catch on to his smarts. Back then, there was no scope to recheck it on video and then decide. England also became World Cup champions in 1966 like this (hinting at Geoff Hurst’s goal). Today in the age of VAR, it’s impossible to score goals like that.

Then, the goal he scored dribbling past seven players is now part of world football history. I have always said that it was the greatest goal in football history. I am very glad that I was running right beside Maradona when he scored that goal. I am glad to be a part of it.

default-image

Why hasn’t Argentina managed to win the World Cup despite having a world class player like Lionel Messi in the team?

Unfortunately, the World Cup happens once every four years and if you lose one match then you have to wait for another four years. It’s very disappointing for the players. Qatar World Cup is the last chance for Messi.

He would definitely want to win the World Cup. He would want to make Argentina World Cup champions after a long time. But sometimes in football, you don’t get everything you want. You will have one bad day in the tournament, and that day you will be out.

Everyone thinks that Argentina won the World Cup only because of Maradona. But Maradona alone could never have won the World Cup, if we hadn’t supported him. Maradona needed us. All of us were hungry for success. Messi also needs 10 teammates like that.

You were the manager of the Argentina team in the last World Cup in Russia. During the World Cup, there was a rumour going around that you will replace Sampaoli as the coach. I want to hear about your experience in the Russia World Cup.

It wasn’t a great World Cup for Argentina football. Due to social media, nowadays rumours get spread very quickly. Due to the false information that was fed outside, our preparation was not up to the mark. People didn’t share a good relation with each other.

We lost 4-3 against a big team like France and got eliminated. That day, I felt terrible. The talk of changing coach was a rumour. There was no possibility of that happening and I wouldn’t have accepted the coach’s position anyways. Because, I felt that as Sampaoli has started this, he should see it through. I was happy with my role in the team.

default-image

What do you think about Argentina’s chances in the Qatar World Cup?

Argentina has a very good chance to do well in the Qatar World Cup. Recently, the team is playing really well. They became champions in the Copa America tournament in Brazil. It’s a very important trophy for the national team.

Messi, Di Maria, Otamendi- they are part of Argentina’s latest golden generation. They have never won the World Cup. This time, they have tasted success in the Copa America. This has boosted their confidence. Messi is playing really well for the national team. He is very confident and is enjoying his game. The other players are also playing really well.

The team has gelled together really well. Messi is helping the team and the team is also helping Messi. Messi is now giving his everything for the national team. I hope that Argentina this year will play in the final. If Argentina can go into the World Cup with this form, I am hopeful that they will win the World Cup.

default-image

There are many Argentina fans in Bangladesh. What do you know about Bangladesh?

I know nothing about Bangladesh. But I know that everyone loves Argentina’s football. Because, the two best players of the last 40 years –Maradona and Messi- are from Argentina.

Many people in Bangladesh, India and Singapore support Argentina. It’s really nice to know that people in Bangladesh support Argentina. As people in Bangladesh like Argentina’s football, I think Bangladesh also play good football. They must have good footballers.

*This interview appeared in the print and online version of Prothom Alo and was rewritten for the English edition by Ashfaq-Ul-Alam Niloy

Read more from Football
Post Comment