- The Washington Times - Friday, July 20, 2007

SEOUL — The Argentine soccer rivalry between Buenos Aires teams River Plate and Boca Juniors is said to be one the most intense in the world. An English newspaper once listed seeing a Boca-River game as one of the 50 things a person must do before dying.

Argentina’s two greatest players, Daniel Passarella and Diego Maradona, are associated with the clubs. Passarella played for River Plate, while Maradona played for Boca. Passarella captained the national team to World Cup glory in 1978, and Maradona did it in 1986. Both players were on the 1986 team, but they hated each other. Passarella accused Maradona of using drugs, while Maradona broadcast to the team details of Passarella’s private life. Passarella walked off the team.

Today, after years of drug use, Maradona is a sick man who admits that if he kicked a ball his “heart might explode.” Passarella, on the other hand, is looking as fit as he did in his playing days and has been coaching River Plate at the Peace Cup in Korea.

Maradona has many addictions,” River Plate senior team manager Jose Manuel Besteiro said. “Today it”s an addiction of one thing; tomorrow it’s an addiction of another thing. One day it’s drugs, then no more drugs. One day it’s food, then no more food. He has an addiction personality.”

Boca Juniors was going through a rough patch when it played in the 2005 Peace Cup. But the club is now riding high, having recently clinched the Copa Libertadores — South America’s most prized club trophy, which is comparable to Europe’s Champions League Cup.

River Plate officials are hoping playing in the eight-team Peace Cup also will bode well for their club.

“River Plate has a great story, but in the last three years we have really been bad,” Besteiro said. “We hope this event here will prepare us for a better future, too.”

After wins over English club Reading FC and Japan’s Shimizu S-Pulse, River Plate appeared likely to reach the final. But the team instead bowed out of the tournament last night after losing 3-1 to French champion Lyon. Lyon now will face Bolton in the final tomorrow at Seoul’s World Cup Stadium.

Seol plays — Korean fans were happy to see Reading FC’s Korean star Seol Ki-Hyeon play in the tournament as a substitute against Shimizu last night. It was Seol’s first game after an ankle operation. Reading won 1-0 on goal from Icelandic midfielder Brynjar Gunnarsson, but the Royals fell short, needed three goals to reach the final after Lyon’s win over River Plate.

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