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Page last updated at 05:47 GMT, Monday, 30 June 2008 06:47 UK

Football match evokes Dirty War

By Daniel Schweimler
BBC News, Buenos Aires

Former members of the Argentine national team before the match
The game took place in the River Plate stadium in Buenos Aires

Argentina has been celebrating 30 years since it won its first football World Cup, on home soil.

But it has not forgotten that the victory took place under a military government that kidnapped, tortured and killed tens of thousands of Argentines. Members of the team that lifted the trophy in 1978 have taken part in a commemorative match for the victims.

They were joined by human rights activists and survivors of what became known as the Dirty War.

The match, called The Other Final, was played in the same stadium in Buenos Aires where Argentina beat Holland 3-1 in 1978.

When they played a game over the speakers, it was very contradictory - because the executioners, those who tortured us, and us the victims both cried 'Goal Argentina!'
Adolfo Perez Esquivel, torture victim

Only this time, where the military had sat, there was a flag commemorating the tens of thousands of Argentine victims of the military government.

There were fewer fans this time, but they sang songs about liberty and justice as well as the more traditional football songs.

Several of the players from Argentina's victorious 1978 squad - Ricardo Villa, Rene Houseman and Leopoldo Luque among them - took the field alongside human rights activists.

They played the national under-20 team.

Propaganda tool

Earlier hundreds marched to the stadium from what had been a military detention and torture centre, where prisoners told how, chained to their beds, they could hear their guards listening to the game on the radio and the crowds celebrate as the goals went in.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel was a prisoner during the final and joined the march:

"When they played a game over the speakers, it was very contradictory - because the executioners, those who tortured us, and us the victims both cried 'Goal Argentina!'" he said.

And we know that they took prisoners out when there were distractions caused by the World Cup and shot them," he said.

To say that football in Argentina is important is a huge understatement.

The military government used the 1978 World Cup finals and their team's victory as a political propaganda tool - in much the same way as Adolf Hitler used the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Many Argentines were excluded from the celebrations then, but with the Other Final they have laid some of their ghosts to rest.




SEE ALSO
Argentine ex-army chief on trial
01 Jul 08 |  Americas
Argentine sues 'Dirty War' couple
12 Mar 08 |  Americas
Argentina hands on Dirty War site
03 Oct 07 |  Americas
Argentina to open secret archives
23 Mar 06 |  Americas
Q&A: Argentina's grim past
14 Jan 05 |  Americas
Timeline: Argentina
31 Dec 04 |  Country profiles


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