Argentina will honour football legend Diego Maradona in their Tri-Nations test against the All Blacks on Saturday by trying to match his passion for playing for the country, coach Mario Ledesma said.
Maradona, a FIFA World Cup Winner, played 91 times for the Argentina football team, died at the age of 60 on Wednesday, plunging the nation into three days of mourning.
He was one of the Pumas' biggest supporters and often attended their matches around the world.
'He loved the Pumas, he'll be watching for sure,' Ledesma told the media on Thursday ahead of Saturday's Test against the All Blacks in Newcastle.
"He's a big figure in our country and he epitomised a lot of the way the Argentinians are. We'll try to remember him the best way possible, on the field representing the colours." - Mario Ledesma says Argentina will honour Diego Maradona this weekend pic.twitter.com/nJgjysfftR
— Ultimate Rugby (@ultimaterugby) November 26, 2020
Ledesma met Maradona on several occasions and said the 1986 soccer World Cup winner was a big Pumas fan.
"He would watch tennis, hockey, rugby, football, whenever there was an Argentina jersey he was there and he was an example of how to represent that jersey," Ledesma told reporters in Sydney.
"He's a big figure in our country and he epitomised a lot of the way the Argentinians are. We'll try to remember him the best way possible, on the field representing the colours. He was an example of how you should play for this jersey."
Maradona attended several Pumas matches and Ledesma recalled one occasion when he appeared in the stands during a match against New Zealand.
"The world stopped when he was there, he had a kind of magic," he said.
"One game against the All Blacks, the game had started and Diego came out and he (raised his arms) and everything stopped. We Argentinians all stopped and looked up, and the All Blacks stopped."
Ledesma said the impact of Maradona's death had been felt more acutely by the team staff, who remembered Maradona as a player.
"He gave a lot of happiness to a lot of people in difficult times," he recalled.
"He went from very little and became the king of the world and that gives hope to a lot of Argentinians who are struggling."
Ledesma said the Pumas would honour Maradona on Saturday, but it wouldn't involve Nicolás Sánchez's No 10 jersey, Maradona wore Argentina's No 10 shirt.
"If we do something, everyone's doing the same thing – we're not going to let one guy wear the whole thing. We're definitely going to do something in his remembrance."
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