Maradona stadium name change causes controversy
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — A plaque at the main entrance of the Argentinos Juniors club stadium reads: “The best player of all times made his career debut in this stadium on October 20, 1976.”
Diego Maradona played his first professional game in this small club in a Buenos Aires neighborhood. The club honored Maradona, one of soccer’s most iconic players, by naming its stadium after him.
But Argentinos Juniors recently announced an agreement with the sponsor of the club’s playing shirt — a financing company that offers credit — to re-name the stadium by including the company’s brand. Staring next week, it will be called “Autocredito Diego A. Maradona.”
The re-naming of stadiums using sponsor brands is not new to worldwide soccer. But it’s a first in Argentina, and it has caused indignation among some fans who took to social media to protest.
“I’m totally against it. The name of a stadium is an attribute to our club, especially the name Diego Armando Maradona,” said Argentinos Juniors lifelong fan Alberto Perez, who has been a club member for more than 60 years. “This stains the name.”
Argentinos Juniors takes pride in having produced many world-class players, including Juan Roman Riquelme, the Boca Juniors star playmaker, former Real Madrid captain Fernando Redondo, and Esteban Cambiasso, who also played in Real Madrid before joining Italy’s Inter Milan.
The Argentinos Juniors deal with Autocredito will run until 2019. The deal’s amount has not been disclosed, but club president Cristian Malaspina said it was roughly double what the company paid to sponsor the team’s shirt.
“The club was in a complex position and we had to find a way to generate genuine resources and use a lot of creativity,” he told The Associated Press. “I’m proud of generating genuine resources for the club that can help us continue to grow.”
Maradona has not commented, but Malaspina said he was informed and that the former Argentina captain did not take issue with stadium’s name change.