Argentina’s national rugby team apologise for Maradona tribute

Argentina’s national rugby team has apologised for its widely criticised tribute to Diego Maradona following the football legend’s death from a heart attack.

The Pumas appeared to use black electrical tape as armbands in their 38-0 Tri-Nations loss to New Zealand in the Australian city of Newcastle on Saturday.

It stood in stark contrast to the gesture of New Zealand captain Sam Cane, who placed an All Blacks shirt with Maradona’s name and number 10 in the center of the pitch before his team performed the haka, reports Xinhua news agency.

“We know that the tribute we chose to make to Diego at the weekend caused some pain and disappointed a lot of people,” flanker Pablo Matera said in a message posted by the Pumas on social media.

“We want everyone to know that Diego is a super important person for this team.”

Nery Pumpido, the goalkeeper in the Maradona-inspired Argentina side that won the 1986 FIFA World Cup, vowed to boycott Pumas matches in future.

“People have taken note,” Pumpido told radio station El Sol. “They really got it wrong. I am never going to watch a game of theirs again.”

On Tuesday, Matera was stripped of the Pumas captaincy and suspended – along with teammates Guido Petti and Santiago Socino – for “discriminatory and xenophobic comments” on social media between 2011 and 2013.

All three will remain unavailable for selection pending an investigation, Pumas officials said.