Four years on, Maradona set for farewell game


BUENOS AIRES, Argentina, AP

Argentina soccer superstar Diego Maradona is finally set to play his farewell match, four years after from his last official game. Argentina’s soccer association chief Julio Grondona confirmed the match will go ahead in November and said the tribute to the man who led Argentina to world cup triumph, is long overdue. “In some moment it had to happen and that moment has come now. Let’s hope it’s a great show … this is a well-deserved homage,” Grondona said. In a 20-year career, Maradona won Italian and Argentine league titles, as well as leading Argentina to world cup victory in 1986 and the runners-up position of 1990. Last year, world soccer body FIFA chose Maradona as the game’s best ever, alongside Brazilian Pele. The soccer great, now 40, last played in April 1997 for Boca Juniors against River Plate. Several attempts have since been made to organize a tribute match but they never got off the ground. According to Grondona, the match is due to take place between Nov. 7 and Nov. 14 and will feature a game between Argentina’s current national team and a side of international stars of past and present. Among the foreigners likely to attend the game — which will be at Boca Juniors’ Bombonera stadium — are Colombia’s Carlos Valderrama, Mexican striker Hugo Sanchez, Bulgaria’s Hristo Stoichkov and Brazil’s Rivaldo. The final go-ahead for the match will come from Argentina’s national team boss Marcelo Bielsa, who must allow his side to participate in the game. The Argentina squad will however be in Buenos Aires in mid November anyway, for world cup qualifying games against Peru and Uruguay. Earlier this week Maradona’s friend and adviser Guillermo Coppola told a local radio station the former player was already getting ready for the event. “Diego is now focussing in on this homage event project,” he said, adding that he prefers not to call it a farewell game, because Maradona is still hopeful of playing again some day. Maradona, who had a heart-attack last year is currently in Cuba where he is receiving treatment to help him recover from drug addiction. On Friday, the Argentine announced from Cuba that he was starting a special training regime to be in good shape for the match.