Maradona and the bird

Maradona once flipped the bird at the guy sitting next to me.


Unsurprisingly, the story involves a wedding, Lleyton Hewitt and a lovely funeral director couple.


Firstly the wedding.


Mike and Bonnie’s nuptials were scheduled for September 2006 in Buenos Aires. Melbourne-raised Mike had met his fiancée Bonnie whilst he was working in the Chilean power sector. The much anticipated wedding was a beauty with many friends and colleagues taking the two hour shuttle over the Andean peaks from Santiago. A Brazilian themed Samba reception had a few nursing sore heads the next day, Tara being the exception. We were expecting our first and with the secretive first trimester phase in full swing, I became the beneficiary of her wine drinking deception.


On the same weekend, Australia was scheduled to play in the semi-finals of the Davis Cup against Argentina. As Mike had secured a row of plum seats in the purpose-built stadium, Tara and I were prepared to drop our well documented tennis ambivalence and do the patriotic thing for a day.


Hewitt was scheduled to play a must win game against Argie up-and-comer Acasuso. Already deeply unpopular in Argentina, Lleyton had made the crucial mistake of requesting bodyguards for the duration his stay in BA. The request was leaked, then devoured by the media. It was considered a major insult to the proud, now angry Porteños – quite probably necessitating a very real requirement for him to employ bodyguards.


Argentina’s fabled sporting prowess has long provided a panacea for the country’s crippling economic failures, breeding a nation of devotees perhaps unmatched anywhere. It was in this context that fifty or so Australians, some sporting cheap Vamos (Let’s go) Australia green caps were seated amongst some 10,000 zealots sensing a Davis Cup final berth against Spain.



Davis Cup crowd packed in – not much green and gold around.



One of Mike’s Melbourne mates, Dave I think, had dressed up full sporting bogan. Face paint, yellow wig, the whole shebang. A visible target. The visible target. He sat next to Tara and me.


We copped a bit early, mostly good natured, but the stroppiness index ratcheted up once Hewitt had taken the third set to lead 2-1.


That’s when things changed.


Maradona walked in. Diego. El Diez.


From nowhere.


He marched down to his front row box as the crowd descended into messianic mayhem. Football songs, national songs, Diego songs. The works.


“SILENCIO, SILENCIO” bellowed the central court umpire.


No chance. The place went off.






Maradona responded by removing his jacket to reveal to his Argentinean number 10 soccer shirt. He stuffed his jacket in a plastic bag and swung it above his head. The crowd followed suit as they sang. Clothing swishing around heads everywhere.



The one and only Diego Maradona holding court in Buenos Aires.





Not happening. They were now going totally ape-shit.


Once things finally settled, the peace lasted all of two minutes. Maradona’s seat was positioned directly behind Hewitt’s baseline at ground level who began to noticeably wilt under the cacophony.


Acacuso quickly took the fourth 6-2 and that’s when it happened.


Maradona jumped out of his seat, looked our way, picked out the yellow wig and produced the middle digit.


Dave was stunned. He asked me if Maradona had just given him the rude finger, which was duly affirmed. He pondered things for a moment, unsure whether to be worried or honored, settling on the latter soon after.


By early in the fifth, the referee had given on trying to control the uncontrollable. The cordial sport of tennis had turned into a joyous riot. Hewitt lost the plot and crashed out 6-1 with Diego winning the last two sets.


Tara and I headed swiftly into the carpark to grab a cab, trying to look inconspicuously un-Australian. Whilst not emotionally invested, we felt cheated and deflated for Hewitt who was clearly spooked when the unannounced guest crashed the party.


There were no taxis of course and a cold dusk was approaching. As we despondently wandered, a couple driving out of the carpark somehow sensed our predicament. Maybe they had seen us cowering in the stadium?


We gratefully bundled into the back seat and asked to be dropped at a cab rank. They were young, kind, sophisticated, and ran a crematorium. They also had a decent car heater.


Apologetic for the entusiasmo in the crowd and gracious in victory, our unlikely saviours were adamant that they’d take us the full 45 minutes to our hotel in town. En-route, Tara divulged news of her pregnancy; perhaps the first friends to know our news outside of family. Their joy was spontaneous and heartfelt.


We spoke of babies, Maradona, the economics of memorial parks, and Maradona again.





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About Rob Spurr

Rob Spurr is a Melbourne based CFO. He started writing a few stories to avoid home schooling his kids during the COVID lockdown.


  1. Gracias robito. Irresistible opening line and hugely entertaining yarn

  2. Laughing so hard … love it. You can’t make this stuff up :)

  3. Great read again Rob.

  4. Nigel Warren says

    I was there that day and rob has captured every moment to the tee

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