A name that is synonymous with football, Maradona played his last international match at Albiceleste in the 1994 World Cup. But it was in November 2001 that he had returned to play his farewell match after quitting the game four years ago. Diego Maradona is a little old at 41 years old, overweight, and was just out of knee surgery. The stadium was the same Boca Juniors ground where Argentinean legend had risen to fame as a sprightly 21year-old striker, steering Boca Juniors to the title in 1981.
Maradona has joined a host of soccer stars from around the world for one last game in front of 50,000 devoted, adoring fans. The stands also had Pele in a testimonial to wave a farewell for the Hand of God. Playing for Argentina’s national squad while wearing the blue and white No 10 jersey, Maradona scored two goals and his team beat a “World XI”. That day, he defied the odds.“I want the people of Argentina to know that I will not break that easily, I won’t die like that,” he said at the match, where Boca Juniors beat World XI by 6-3 at the Boca Juniors’ Bombonera stadium. “I will never forget this, it was an incredible experience,” said a tearful ex-player. He further adds, “I could never have expected so much.” For hours before the match, the streets were packed full of fans decked out in Maradona tees, shorts, scarves, and hats, with cheers of his name from every bar and corner of the street. With glistening eyes, he stood one last time for the national anthem in the famed No 10 jersey of the Argentina team.
Among the big names in the game were Colombia’s Carlos Valderrama, Bulgaria’s Hristo Stoichkov, Peru’s Nolberto Solano, Uruguay’s Enzo Francescoli, France’s Eric Cantona, and Argentina’s Juan Sebastian Veron, Walter Samuel, Juan Roman Riquelme, and Kily Gonzalez.
The impressive starting lineup had – Argentina: German Burgos; Javier Zanetti, Roberto Ayala, Walter Samuel, Juan Pablo Sorin; Matias Almeyda, Juan Veron, Diego Maradona, Pablo Aimar; Claudio Lopez, Kily Gonzalez.
World XI: Oscar Cordoba (Colombia), Ciro Ferrara (Italy), Jorge Bermudez (Colombia), Ivan Cordoba (Colombia). Carlos Gamarra (Paraguay), Nolberto Solano (Peru), Juan Riquelme (Argentina), Carlos Valderrama (Colombia), Enzo Francescoli (Uruguay). Hrtsto Stoichkov (Bulgaria), Davor Suker (Croatia).
Joining in the second half of the game were Uruguay’s Fabian Carini, Alvaro Recoba, and Carlos Aguilera; Brazil’s Careca and Leonardo Rodriguez; France’s Eric Cantona; Germany’s Lothar Matthaus, and Colombia’s Mauricio Serna.