The New Zealand All Blacks have been praised after a special tribute to Diego Maradona ahead of their clash against Argentina before the start of the Tri Nations Test.
Captain Sam Cane led the All Blacks out and lined up to perform their world-renown Haka, before the lock walked out and placed a New Zealand jersey in front of the Argentine’s.
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On the jersey was Maradona’s name and his famous No.10.
The Argentine players stood arm-in-arm and watched.
"It was a gesture, a token, of paying our respects to an Argentine legend, a world legend in his field as well," Cane said after the match, which New Zealand won 38-0.
Maradona died on Wednesday of a heart attack at age 60 in a house outside Buenos Aires. The soccer great had been recovering from a brain operation.
Fans from all around the world were quick to praise the ‘classy’ gesture from the All Blacks.
He played with style, flair and grace. A legend of football.
RIP Diego Maradona. https://t.co/yb5ZYFRA2y
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) November 25, 2020
— B/R Football (@brfootball) November 28, 2020
— ugo monye (@ugomonye) November 28, 2020
Great to see the @AllBlacks brothers show respect to the sporting legend that was Maradona ❤️✊🏽🏉
— Sonny Bill Williams (@SonnyBWilliams) November 28, 2020
This is sooooo f**king good
“The All Blacks paid tribute to Diego Maradona before their game with Argentina “https://t.co/6P82QEbBrF
— Adam Spencer (@adambspencer) November 28, 2020
— FootballJOE (@FootballJOE) November 28, 2020
— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) November 28, 2020
— Simon Kuper (@KuperSimon) November 28, 2020
— Nick Bryant (@NickBryantNY) November 28, 2020
— Sacha Pisani (@Sachk0) November 28, 2020
I never ever get tired of watching the All Blacks’ haka. The tribute to Maradona is icing. https://t.co/OAdQHQWHfa
— Jim Himes (@jahimes) November 28, 2020
Argentine stars thank All Blacks for ‘classy’ gesture
The idea for the tribute came from All Blacks halfback TJ Perenara, Cane said.
"Rugby is a game first and foremost that is built on respect I believe, and it was the respectful and right thing to do," Cane said.
Several Argentine players nodded in appreciation of the gesture.
"I didn't know (about the tribute) until I did the coin toss with Sam Cane and he told me about it," Pumas flanker Pablo Matera said.
"I'm really thankful for that. Diego Maradona was obviously huge for Argentina, so I'm really thankful for that gesture from the All Blacks."
Matera said that Maradona's passing had been a source of inspiration for many of the squad.
"Maradona was a guy who represented our country the best way you could represent us as a sportsman," Matera said.
"He's been a huge inspiration for all of us: players, coaches, the people of Argentina.
"So we always have him in our thoughts and we just want to represent our country the way he did."
The All Blacks have all but secured the Tri Nations title following a 38-0 bonus-point victory over Argentina in Newcastle.