Argentina players unveil new statue to Diego Maradona ahead of World Cup qualification with Chile

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Lionel Messi and his Argentinian teammates unveil a new statue of Diego Maradona and play with his photo on their jerseys during the World Cup qualifiers with Chile as they enter the pitch for the first time since the legend’s death

Diego Maradona was honored by the Argentine soccer team as a statue of the legend was unveiled outside the new Madre de Ciudades stadium in Santiago del Estero.

Thursday night’s World Cup qualifier against Chile was the first time Argentina have played since Maradona’s death on November 25.

Members of the team gathered to witness the official unveiling of the statue, which shows Maradona standing with her hands planted on her hips and with a balloon at her feet.

New Diego Maradona statue unveiled ahead of Argentina’s game against Chile

Argentina players stood up and watched the unveiling in Santiago del Estero on Thursday

Argentina players stood up and watched the unveiling in Santiago del Estero on Thursday

Lionel Messi and Co took to the pitch with pictures of Maradona on the front of their shirts

Lionel Messi and Co took to the pitch with pictures of Maradona on the front of their shirts

The players also wore shirts with a photo of Maradona with the words “1960-∞” to reflect her eternal heritage in the country.

He died of heart failure at the age of 60 late last year and an investigation into the circumstances of his death concluded that his medical team had acted “inappropriately, wantonly and recklessly”.

Maradona, who battled alcoholism and drug addiction for many years, underwent brain surgery in November shortly before her death.

The investigation revealed that the 1986 World Cup winner was left “in agony” for at least 12 hours and that the care he received in his final hours was “insufficient and incomplete”.

Argentina were unable to draw 1-1 with Chile, with ex-Arsenal and Manchester United player Alexis Sanchez canceling Lionel Messi’s first penalty.

The statue of Maradona is outside the new 30,000-seat Estadio Unico Madre de Ciudades

The statue of Maradona is outside the new 30,000-seat Estadio Unico Madre de Ciudades

It was the first time Argentina has played since Maradona died at the age of 60 in November

It was the first time Argentina has played since Maradona died at the age of 60 in November

Lionel Messi with Argentine FA President Claudio Tapia at the unveiling ceremony

Lionel Messi with Argentine FA President Claudio Tapia at the unveiling ceremony

An investigation into Maradona's death revealed that he had received

Investigation into Maradona’s death found he received “inadequate medical care”

Argentine soccer icon, who won the 1986 World Cup, died on November 25

Argentine soccer icon, who won the 1986 World Cup, died on November 25

They remain on track to reach Qatar 2022, however, placing second behind Brazil in the South American qualifying group with 11 points in their first five games. Argentina will face Colombia on Tuesday.

Messi later said he could feel Maradona watching them during the game.

“It was a very important game to be the first without Diego Maradona,” he said. “We know what the national team meant to him, and we know he was there.”

The 30,000-seat Estadio Unico Madre de Ciudades opened in March when it hosted the delayed 2019 Supercopa Argentina, with River Plate beating Racing Club 5-0.

The site was supposed to host matches for the Copa America, which begins this month, but the tournament was moved to Brazil on just 13 days notice due to rising Covid-19 rates in Argentina.

Lionel Messi's penalty was not enough for Argentina who drew 1-1 with Chile

Lionel Messi’s penalty was not enough for Argentina who drew 1-1 with Chile

Messi approached with two free kicks - one hitting the post - and also missed a late opportunity

Messi approached with two free kicks – one hitting the post – and also missed a late opportunity

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