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Start Believing: Family memories help Argentina to victory

Start Believing: Family memories help Argentina to victory

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The tragic death of Leopoldo Luque's brother during the 1978 World Cup feature in the latest of our series chronicling the extraordinary power of belief

In the 1978 World Cup, Argentina striker Leopold Luque scored a fantastic goal against France in his country’s second match at the Monumental Stadium, but in the dying minutes, he fell and dislocated his elbow. Luque demanded that the doctor allow him back on for the final few minutes so that “my folks in Santa Fe will see that I’m fine.”

But the moustachioed forward also had a “premonition” that “something bad” had happened that night, and sadly he was proved right. His brother had been watching the game on television and was driving into Buenos Aires to meet up with Luque when he was killed in a car crash near a bridge in San Isidro on the Panamericana Highway later that night.

I was playing for the memory of my brother. For a few seconds I saw him smiling up at me. I cried with happiness

“I could still sense that something was wrong, even when others were celebrating winning the game.” Two days later, his father came to give Luque the bad news, and the striker went back to Santa Fe to grieve for his brother. Team captain Daniel Passarella rang Luque to tell him that the squad needed him, and the national press offered its condolences to the family. When Luque returned to the squad in the second group stage, he was met by scores of supporters offering him rosary beads and prayers for his deceased sibling.

“I drew strength from that. It meant everything to me. I was playing for the people who’d been so kind, and for the memory of my brother.” Luque played a fine game in the final against Holland and when he received his winners medal, “for a few seconds I saw my brother smiling up at me. I cried with happiness more than any other player on the team.”

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