“There was a pause of play as Pedro Throlligo was put down. The Argentine physio Lorenzo was treating him and players decided to take water to quench their thirst. Branco asked for a new water bottle from the Argentine physio. Diego Maradona allegedly convinced the Argentinean staff to douse Branco’s water bottle with tranquillizers. Branco drank that water”
Any sports are meant to be played with passion and fairly. Be it in cricket or soccer or basketball; cheating is quite unacceptable. They not only pollute the game but at the same time, send a bad message to the fans, especially the young followers, who watch the game with a huge amount of respect. But sports has always been polluted by means of cunning activities, which is glorified by some and hated by millions out there.
You can term that cheating as “Hand of God” or anything “Holy (?),” but deep down, I don’t think, your conscience allows you to provide mental peace, while you keep on arguing about a goal scored by hand. Surely, you don’t play football with your hands. Nor, do you reverse the ball by using foreign substances nor do you win a hundred-meter race in the Olympics by taking banned drugs.
In the history of the FIFA World Cup, there had been many controversial incidents. To specific, cheating incidents. Such incidents, over the years, have created enough furore and heated arguments among the fans and critics and still today, those incidents trigger anger among the fans.
The fourteenth FIFA World Cup was staged in Italy. According to critics, the quality of football played in that World Cup was not up to the mark. The teams adopted a defensive approach and they concentrated more on guarding their own penalty area rather than scoring goals. Most of the knockout matches were decided through penalty shootouts and even though teams like Brazil, Holland, England, and Italy possessed attacking players, surprisingly, they remained unconvincing in front of the goal.
Only West Germany provided the spark with their wing-backs, libero, midfield and forwards, but it also waned as the tournament progressed.
Italia 90 not only witnessed some defensive exhibition of football but at the same time, few of the matches were marred by controversies.
Turin, June 24, 1990: The enthusiasm among the football fans all over the world was enormous as two of world football’s most beloved teams Argentina and Brazil met each other in the round of 16.
Argentina were the reigning world champion, but their journey in the Italia 90 started with a shocking defeat against Cameroon at San Siro and a scratchy draw against Romania ensured their qualification for the second round. In the group stage game against the then USSR, Argentina’s most experienced goalkeeper got injured and a new chap named Sergio Goykocechea was given the responsibility to take care of the Argentine goalpost.
The Argentine team lacked the spark of Mexico in 1986. Injuries and lack of form among the players made the Argentine team very fragile, but what they did have someone’s cleverness and brilliance of acting which the others didn’t have and he was none other than Diego Armando Maradona, whose cunning ideas proved instrumental in Argentina’s progression in the tournament.
Whereas, the Brazilian side were confident enough to face Maradona’s men. Even though this Brazilian side was not up to the mark as the previous World Cups, they still managed to win all their group games and qualified for the knockout stages as the group leaders.
On a warm afternoon at Turin, the Brazilians started brightly – Careca burst into the scene in the opening minutes by cutting through the Argentine defence with a brilliant solo run, but shot fractionally wide. Moments later, Careca again failed to get a touch to a corner that flew across the face of the goal. Then a Dunga header rebounded back off a post.
With Carlos Dunga and Alemao were in total command in the midfield, Argentina’s players were finding the going tough. Neither Maradona nor his men could get control over the ball.
The first half ended goallessly. The second half was, as usual, the display of Brazil’s misses – twice they hit the bar. Still, in the second half, the Argentines were looking helpless as Brazil dominated.
Diego Maradona was under the strict supervision of Brazilian left-back Branco. He was contained effectively and was hardly allowed to be let free. Even when Maradona tried to set free, he was body-checked to the ground by Branco and the Brazilian holding midfielders.
Diego Maradona decided to take matters into his own hands in order to stop Branco.
There was a pause of play as Pedro Throlligo was put down. The Argentine physio Lorenzo was treating him and players decided to take water to quench their thirst. Branco asked for a new water bottle from the Argentine physio. Diego Maradona allegedly convinced the Argentinean staff to douse Branco’s water bottle with tranquillizers. Branco drank that water.
The game began.
But Branco started to feel sluggish and was unable to contain Maradona. Maradona was set free and with just ten minutes remaining in the match he made a brilliant solo run from the right side – usually, most of his moves occur from the left side – to give Claudio Caniggia a sublime pass which he sent into the Brazilian nets by rounding-up the goalkeeper Taffarel: Argentina 1 Brazil 0!
Brazil’s World Cup dreams were shattered. Tears were shed; plenty of gloomy faces were around as the Samba boys were left stunned by one man’s brilliance and cunning idea. Argentina had won the match, but it was not in the fairest of ways.
Later on, Branco claimed that the bottle of water given to him by the Argentine coaching staff was fishy. Branco threatened to sue the Argentine officials. There had been an angry response to Branco’s allegations from the Argentine officials and press, but after almost 15 years in a television show, Maradona agreed that Branco was given a bottle of water mixed with tranquillizers.
The press was shocked! The world was shocked!
Maradona’s confession triggered anger among the Brazilian fans and players of Italia 90.
Regarding the incident, Argentine coach Carlos Bilardo said, “I don’t know anything about it, but I cannot deny the incident”. According to a journalist, Bilardo checked himself after saying such. Even though, Bilardo and that controversial physio, Lorenzo denied such allegations and criticized the press.
Though Bebeto said, “If Lorenzo denied such allegations, then he lied as he confessed such to me”.
Coach Lazaroni said, “This can’t be a part of sportsmanship, but it’s a dirty game. It doesn’t matter whether it was fourteen years ago or fourteen days ago, FIFA should punish the offenders. Who can assure that Argentina won’t do the same with other teams”?
The Brazil Football Federation decided to take legal actions, but the secretary-general of CBF Ricardo Texeira, later on, stepped back as taking legal actions won’t help to change the result.
Diego Maradona’s cheating helped Argentina yet again to reach the finals, but justice can be delayed, but not denied. In the finals, Maradona and his boys tasted his own medicine and since Italia 90, Argentina still could not win a World Cup.
Since then, this saga is known as the “Holy Water’ scandal.