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El Diego's confession opens wounds long-since healed

by Sebastian Hassett on May 26, 2011

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Almost two decades on since it actually happened, Diego Maradona's new claim that Argentina's players took banned drugs before their World Cup qualifier against Australia is like twisting the knife for me and thousands of hardcore Socceroos fans.

Australian football is littered with so many heartaches and near-misses that this one really does rub salt into our rawest wound.

Just imagine what it would have done for the round-ball game had we defeated Argentina over two legs to qualify for USA '94. It might have kick-started a chain reaction of belief that we lacked in 1997 and 2001.

I'm prepared to take Maradona on his word on this claim because, ultimately, he knows a thing or two about taking drugs, a nasty habit that led to his eviction from the tournament proper.

I don't mean to whinge and whine about something from the past that cannot be changed. That is not why I am writing about this. It's a reminder of why we simply must keep qualifying for - and competing strongly at - World Cups.

It's also a reminder of the lengths some nations will go to make sure they are there to compete for a slice of glory. We know this all too well, having been the victim not only of Argentina's transgressions but Uruguayan 'hospitality'.

There's something that burns inside of me for every one of these failures. Apathy might have greeted our most recent qualification for the global showpiece but I shudder at the thought.

We must never take for granted our place on the world stage. So many times we were denied, perhaps unfairly, because we were too naive. That should smolder inside of every fan, player and administrator. Our catalogue of previous failures is fuel to the fire making sure our future is an opposite of the past.

With qualifying for the next World Cup just a few months away, I could think of much worse ideas than to have some former Socceroos talk to the current generation - especially the young ones - about what it felt like to miss out. To convey the horrific moment of what it's like when that thought dawns on you: 'four more years'.

It is a painful legacy to have on our shoulders, but one that can bear fruit if we never forget what has happened. It's why the Socceroos means so much to each of us and why the long-term fans have been relishing in their recent success. The squad itself may be about to enter a difficult phase of transition, but it is possible we can negotiate a path to each World Cup in the forseeable future.

Our history is littered with too many disappointments and close shaves not to care. The thought of Maradona, Silva and Azizi should be an eternal reminder to make our own luck.