Tuesday saw the start of training for Argentina B, who now include Esteban Fuertes after his late call-up on Monday. At the age of 36, Fuertes becomes the oldest player ever to be called up to the Argentine national squad (note for first-time readers who are confused: ‘Argentina B’ is what I’m calling them because the squad consists solely of players based in the country; the friendly will enter the record books as a full international). The whole squad, needless to say, were over the moon to meet their idol (that’s Maradona, not Fuertes).
‘I’m going to talk with all my friends from Argentinos right now and tell them what this day’s been like,’ said defender Matías Caruzzo on leaving the practice. ‘They asked me to call them… he represents so much for all of us. He keeps you listening. Moments like this have to be enjoyed because we might not get the chance again. Getting called up by the selección – especially by Diego – is the ultimate for any player.’ This was one of the plus points even Maradona’s detractors (of whom I was one) suspected would result from his leadership: a highly motivated squad.
Caruzzo was only one voice, but the delight right across the squad was obvious, and Maradona was more than happy to return the sentiments. The side played a practice match against Tristán Suarez (the club not the person) which was won by a single goal from José Sand of Lanús, and afterwards Maradona told the press, ‘I liked the attitude they displayed… I was able to talk with all of them, I got to know them a little more… there are good footballers playing in Argentina right now.’ His one wish for the friendly on the 20th against Panama? ‘That the shirt doesn’t weigh us down too much.’