All Blacks rugby squad pays tribute to soccer icon, ‘world legend’ Maradona


New Zealand paid tribute to Diego Maradona when captain Sam Cane laid an All Black jersey, No. 10, on the field before the start of their Tri-Nations test match against Argentina on Saturday.

As the All Blacks lined up to perform the haka, Cane stepped out, walked toward midfield and laid down the jersey — with Maradona’s name and number on it — as Argentine players stood arm-in-arm and watched.

“It was a gesture, a token, of paying our respects to an Argentine legend, a world legend in his field as well,” Cane told The Associated Press after the match in Newcastle, which New Zealand won 38-0.

Maradona died Wednesday of a heart attack at age 60 in a house outside Buenos Aires. The soccer great had been recovering from a brain operation.

WATCH | CPL’s John Molinaro remembers Diego Maradona’s life, legacy:

Legendary soccer player Diego Maradona has died at the age of 60. John Molinaro joins CBC Sports to discuss his legacy on and off the field. 3:44

The idea came from All Blacks halfback TJ Perenara, Cane said.

“Rugby is a game first and foremost that is built on respect I believe, and it was the respectful and right thing to do,” Cane said.

Maradona’s death ‘a source of inspiration’

Several Argentine players nodded in acknowledgment of the gesture.

“I didn’t know [about the tribute] until I did the coin toss with Sam Cane and he told me about it,” Pumas flanker Pablo Matera said. “I’m really thankful for that. Diego Maradona was obviously huge for Argentina, so I’m really thankful for that gesture from the All Blacks.”

WATCH | Maradona’s famed ‘Hand of God’ goal:

In Mexico City during a quarter-final match against England, Argentine striker Diego Maradona scores “the goal”. 0:50

Matera told The Associated Press that Maradona’s passing had been a source of inspiration for many of the squad.

“Maradona was a guy who represented our country the best way you could represent us as a sportsman,” Matera said. “He’s been a huge inspiration for all of us: players, coaches, the people of Argentina.

“So, we always have him in our thoughts and we just want to represent our country the way he did.”

WATCH | Maradona’s ‘Goal of the Century’:

After scoring the “Hand of God” goal in 1986, Diego Maradona scores again, a spectacular effort against England. 0:58





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