BUENOS AIRES - Former Argentina World
Cup forward Ariel Ortega was a surprise inclusion on Tuesday in
a squad named by coach Diego Maradona for a friendly against
Haiti next week.
The 36-year-old River Plate playmaker, who won the last of
his 86 caps in 2003, was included in a squad of 17 home-based
players to meet Haiti in Cutral Co in the southern Andean
province of Neuquen on May 5.
"The truth is this is a great joy for me to be in the
national team, the maximum I've ever experienced in football,"
Ortega, who played at the 1994, 1998 and 2002 World Cups, told
a news conference after a River Plate practice.
"After such a long time not wearing the shirt it is
something nice, unique. I know this doesn't mean I'll be at the
World Cup because for that (the coach) worked with other
players and that's fine. I'm grateful to (Maradona) for taking
me into account to play this match."
Maradona also included Boca Juniors striker Martin Palermo,
a World Cup hopeful, for the warm-up for the finals in South
Africa starting on June 11 where Argentina face Nigeria, South
Korea and Greece in Group B.
Ortega is one of more than 100 players Maradona has called
up during his 18 months in charge and was previously picked for
a friendly against Ghana last September which he missed through
The call-up comes after a troubled few days for the little
player known as "Burrito" (donkey), who got into a running
argument with Estudiantes defender Leandro Desabato during
River's league match on Saturday before crashing his car on the
way to training on Monday.
Desabato called Ortega a drunkard alluding to the player's
drink problems. Ortega retaliated with a studs-up tackle.
Maradona also called up Independiente goalkeeper Adrian
Gabbarini, who has been linked with Napoli, for the first time
as he tries to decide on a third keeper for his World Cup
Goalkeepers: Diego Pozo (Colon), Adrian Gabbarini
Defenders: Matias Caruzzo (Argentinos Juniors), Juan Manuel
Insaurralde (Newell's Old Boys), Ariel Garce (Colon), Paolo
Goltz (Huracan), Luciano Monzon (Boca Juniors)
Midfielders: Juan Mercier (Argentinos Juniors), Patricio
Toranzo (Huracan), Nicolas Olmedo (Godoy Cruz), Sebastian
Blanco (Lanus), Leonel Vangioni (Newell's Old Boys), Facundo
Forwards: Ariel Ortega (River Plate), Martin Palermo (Boca
Juniors), Franco Jara (Arsenal), Juan Pablo Pereyra (Atletico
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