Argentina paid an on-field tribute to Diego Maradona Saturday, with the national rugby team wearing No.10 on the sleeve of their jerseys after being slammed for not doing enough to honour the late football legend.
The gesture in Sydney followed stinging criticism in Argentina after the Pumas wore black armbands during their Tri Nations clash a week ago with New Zealand but did nothing else to mark his death.
In contrast, New Zealand captain Sam Cane laid an All Blacks No.10 jersey emblazoned with Maradona’s name in the centre circle ahead of performing their traditional haka.
After the backlash, Argentina skipper Pablo Matera and the team posted a video online in which he said: “We know that our tribute for Diego caused disappointment, but we wanted to tell you that in no way was our intention."
The apology coincided with the resurfacing of discriminatory and xenophobic tweets from 2011-2013 by Matera, second row Guido Petti and replacement hooker Santiago Socino.
Some reports suggested they were dug up in retaliation for their perceived lack of respect for Maradona.
The scandal saw Matera stripped of the captaincy and all three players suspended, although in a remarkable u-turn, their punishments were rescinded by the Argentine rugby board on Friday.
Maradona, a rugby fan, died in his sleep this month aged just 60, plunging his South American homeland and global football into mourning.
While the Wallabies didn’t pay homage to Maradona, history was made when the Australian national anthem was sung in an Indigenous language — a first for an international sporting event.
Olivia Fox, a young Sydney singer, pumped out “Advance Australia Fair" in the Eora language and in English, with the Wallabies wearing their First Nations jersey.