Mariano Messira | He played for O’Higgins, he is DT and replaced Maradona: “He made us believe that he was immortal”

Mariano Messera added 18 years of career as a footballer. The Argentine midfielder began in Gymnastics and Fencing of La Plataplayed a semester in O’Higgins of Rancagua and, after retirement, he took over as technical director of the reserve team of the ‘Wolf’.

There it coincided with Diego Armando Maradona when he led the first team. In conversation with AS, Messera recalled his time in Chile and what it was like to live with his idol.

– How do you remember your time at O’Higgins?

– I follow it, I remember it, it was a very nice stage, although it was short, because the reality is that it was six months. Over time I have seen the magnificent growth of the institution, as with the sports center of a very high level. I arrived in January 2006 and people had just arrived to manage it. You realized that it was a serious club and that in the future it was going to be an important club. They wanted to do things right. I had a great time during those six months, we played, we qualified for the league and we were eliminated with La Católica, but it was a very nice experience. I was surprised by the level of Chilean soccer.



– Already retired, he worked in the gym and shared with Maradona…

– It’s beautiful, a magnificent stage, unexpected not only for me, but for everyone in Gymnastics, because Diego’s arrival was not in anyone’s plans. It was unforeseen: he had no prior relationship with the club. It was a revolution, the arrival of Diego was crazy for the city itself. I had the opportunity to meet my idol and that of all those of my generation. As boys we all wanted to be like him and copy him. I had never seen it personally and there I had the possibility. He called me the day Gymnastics hired him, he wanted to talk to me, because I was training the Reserves and that week at the first team. Meeting him and spending just over a year with him at the club was a unique, unforgettable moment. He was a magnetic guy. You got closer and you got goosebumps.

– What was it that most caught your attention about Maradona?

– The magnetism. What one saw on TV or heard, that does not happen with other people in the universe. It attracts you. It is looking at it and immediately a smile is drawn on your face. It’s not a way of saying it, it’s real. For something it was what it was. He had a special aura, a unique charisma. I met Diego in the tranquility of the gymnastics building. I met a loving, generous guy, a guy who was always willing to help and who stood up for his players tremendously. He put on the gymnastics shirt as if he had defended her all his life. It was very special to spend that time with him.

– Any memory in all that year of work?

– I was very respectful in approaching him when he finished training for the reserves, I waited for the first team to finish and greeted him. One afternoon I was able to go with all my children, I took them out of school so they could meet him. And there he was chatting with them, giving them a hug and sharing. I stay with the talks. Regards? The two of us alone, inside the field, with great respect, I asked England about that goal in Mexico 86. I needed to do it. It is the most important goal in the history of the World Cups and how he had done it, if he had realized it or if he took the dimension of what it could become.

– And what did he say?

– He told me as he would have told me that he kicked a corner… and had scored the most extraordinary goal in the history of the World Cups, dribbling past six Englishmen! He told me that when he grabbed the ball in the middle of the field and dodged the first one, he realized that he was going at a different speed, that they couldn’t stop him and that he always played with the fact that he saw Valdano and Burruchaga, who were going in the middle. and that the rivals did not know if he was going to give a pass. He flirted with it. He said that he was in the air. He told me with unique simplicity.


– And you were referring to the other goal?

– He kept saying that it had been the hand of God! She kept saying it. Nobody saw him in the stadium or someone saw him, but the referees did not. Soccer was for the living, Diego said.

– He had to replace him as gymnastics coach after his death…

– It was a very big responsibility, very strong, I would never have wanted or wanted to lead the first in a situation like this. They were very complicated days, with a lot of pain, sadness and anguish on the campus. No one could understand what had happened…Diego reached a point where he made us believe that he was immortal. Especially for having experienced some extreme situations and having left. It was hard to imagine what happened. After two days we had to compete.

– How they did it?

– We conveyed that we had to live with pain. We had a game on the Vélez field, where it was impossible to work the game from tactics or strategy. It was everything from the emotional, the psychic and it was played with the heart in the hand. It was won because the players swore to win it for Diego. It was a very special afternoon, full of emotions: everyone’s pain and anger about Diego, mixed with a certain joy to dedicate it to him.