Argentina: Football stars demand answers on disappeared indigenous rights activist

Temperley players hold up banner that reads “Santiago Maldonado: Reappearance with life now” before their match against River Plate on August 27.

Football players, past and present, have spoken out on the case of Santiago Maldonado, an indigenous rights activist who has not been seen since Border Force officers violently broke up a protest by a Mapuche community in Argentina’s Patagonia region on August 1.

One of the first to speak out was footballing great Diego Maradona, who led Argentina to World Cup success in 1986. On August 28, Maradona posted a message on Facebook that read: “Another day and Santiago Maldonado still hasn’t appeared. Every Argentinean is waiting for you as we are for all the disappeared!!!”

Meanwhile, members of the current national squad – who played Uruguay in a crucial World Cup qualifier on September 1 – also added their voices to the cause.

When Nahuel “Paton” Guzman, one of the team’s goalkeepers, arrived in Argentina on August 28 to prepare for the game, he met the awaiting media wearing a T-shirt that read: “Where is Santiago?”.

The next day, Jorge Sampaoli, who coaches the national squad, also spoke on the issue at a media conference: “Regarding the issue of Santiago Maldonado, for my generation given what we lived through, as Argentineans, it is a little annoying that this issue has not been resolved, because we lived this in those times of adolescence with so much fear and hurt, and for it to happen again now is a bit surprising. Hopefully Santiago’s reappearance will be solved soon, we will give our support from here.”

Football players and fans also made use of the opening round of the Argentina Superliga, played over the weekend of August 25 to 28, to draw attention to Maldonado’s case.

A large banner that read “Reappearance with life now of Santiago Maldonado” was displayed on the field by San Lorenzo fans and members of the Association of Disappeared Ex-Prisoners before their team’s match-up with Racing.

The same message was displayed on a banner held up by Temperley players before their match against River Plate, while Banfield fans also tied a banner up along the sideline.

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