Soccer-Argentina settles debt with Virgin in search of glory

BUENOS AIRES Fri May 27, 2011 3:06am BST

BUENOS AIRES May 26 (Reuters) - Coach Sergio Batista has settled a 25-year-old debt that many fans felt had denied Argentina from clinching a major prize following their second World Cup title.

Carlos Bilardo's 1986 World Cup squad, training at high altitude in Argentina's northwest for the Mexico finals, were reported then to have made a promise to the Virgin of Copacabana to return if they won the title -- but they never went back.

Batista and assistant Jose Luis Brown, who both played in that title-winning team captained by Diego Maradona, headed earlier this week to the Andean town of Tilcara to visit the Virgin's shrine and make up for that supposed omission.

"Everyone talks about that promise but in reality it wasn't as it's told. So many things have been said since '86 that with 'Tata' (Brown) we decided to return to Tilcara, visit the Virgin and give thanks, for our own calm," he told reporters.

Batista, preparing for the Copa America in Argentina in July, said the tournament was "an excellent opportunity to get a title which is what fans are asking for but I'd change everything to win another World Cup."

(Reporting by Luis Ampuero; writing by Rex Gowar; editing by Ian Ransom; To query or comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)

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