The Holy Water Scandal : When Argentina drugged Brazilian players to win the World Cup

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A horrific occurrence overshadowed the 1990 World Cup match between Brazil and Argentina.

The infamous Holy Water incident that occurred during the Brazil vs. Argentina match overshadowed the FIFA World Cup 1990. Here’s a look back at what happened.

“We don’t require the holy…”

The FIFA World Cup was held in 1990.

Turin’s Stadio Dele Appi on June 24.

Argentina vs. Brazil in the Round of 16

The first half of the film is a blur. Brazil attacks the Argentine goal after attack after attack, only to be thwarted by a great Sergio Goycochea in front of the Argentine goal. Argentina, on the other hand, appears to be stuck for ideas. Due to some great defending by the Brazilian, Branco, Diego Maradona fails to make an impact. The heat is unbearable, and an Argentinian sustains an injury. For a little moment, play is paused.

The first half comes to a close with no goals scored.

The play resumes. Argentina is rapidly gaining traction. The brilliance of Brazil’s defense begins to diminish. Branco himself appears to be exhausted. Maradona is closing in on the goal.

There isn’t much time left in the game. The Turin stadium erupts with excitement when Diego Maradona dashes through Brazil’s tough defense, easily outruns Branco, and then throws the ball to Claudio Caniggia, who scores past the Brazilian goalkeeper.

Argentina has a 1-0 advantage over Brazil.

The referee blows the final whistle 10 minutes later.

Argentina has qualified, while Brazil has been eliminated, much to the amazement of the public.

It’s possible that everything would have stayed the same. Until two days later, when Brazil held a press conference. Branco, the defender who brilliantly cancelled out Maradona in the first half but couldn’t keep up in the second, made a surprising claim: Brazil had allowed the late goal and he couldn’t keep up with Maradona because the Argentine team had drugged him.

Branco claims he drank from a bottle provided by Argentina’s physio Miguel di Lorenzo during the previously described pause in first-half play. He alleged that the water had been “spiked,” that a chemical had been introduced into it to impair his performance by making him dizzy and sick. He had requested to be replaced during halftime, but the coach refused, and the rest of the game unfolded. Branco was the “Roberto Carlos-styled” free-kick expert that day, but he failed to make a single decent effort on goal due to his legs feeling “funny.”

Reporters listened sympathetically but didn’t pay much attention. Even Brazilian journalists were uninterested. This was the first time the famed holy water scandal was mentioned.

Branco ignored the incident at the time, but two years later, he met into Argentine defender Oscar Ruggeri at the Rio de Janeiro airport and said to him, “Ah, Claudio, that was a fantastic prank we performed on you back at Italia ’90, wasn’t it?” Ruggeri confirmed to him that there was a “unique” bottle in the Argentine kit that afternoon in Turin, distinguished by a distinctive colored lid.

Even then, the narrative might have ended there if it hadn’t been for Maradona himself. Fourteen years later, in 2005, speaking on the Argentine channel Tyvc Sports’ Mar de Fondo program, Maradona confessed Branco’s charges were accurate. When Branco called across the Argentine bench for a drink, the Argentine bench had a “special” water bottle ready for the Brazilians, laced with the tranquilizer Roipnol, and it was this bottle that was offered to him. Maradona stated, “After that, Branco took the free kicks and fell over.”

What about the other main characters? When asked about the “laced” water bottle by Argentine newspaper Veintitrés, Argentina coach Carlos Bilardo provided a strangely hesitant response, saying: “I don’t know but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, I can’t say for certain that it didn’t happen.” Bilardo’s mouth was distorted and he didn’t grin, according to the journalist, as if he was concealing something.

When approached by the Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paolo, Argentina’s “physio” Miguel Di Lorenzo declared he had no knowledge of the firm.

The interview triggered a verbal war between many of the veterans of the 1990 encounter, which had received plenty of coverage in both countries’ sports media. “This isn’t just gamesmanship, it’s playing dirty,” said Sebastiao Lazaroni, Brazil’s coach from 1990, whose international career ended with the defeat: “This isn’t just gamesmanship, it’s playing dirty.” It makes no difference whether the incident occurred 14 years ago or 14 days ago; Fifa should punish Bilardo and the physio to make an example of them. Who can say that they didn’t act the same way in other games?”

Even the most level-headed individuals were drawn into the debate. Carlos Alberto Parreira, Brazil’s coach in 2005, commented, “This has to be further looked into.” I know Bilardo and never imagined it could happen to him. He was unethical, if this is true.”

The Brazilian Federation’s (CBF) then-general secretary, Marco Antonio Teixeira, stated that his federation had created a dossier on the matter, which was to be delivered to then-FIFA President Sepp Blatter. “This is a really serious accusation. Given FIFA’s commitment to fair play, we may expect significant action from them,” he stated.

In Argentina, Bilardo accused the media of fabricating the tale and stated that he was unaware of any conspiracy to defraud the Brazilians. Former Brazil striker Bebeto reacted angrily, saying, “If he denies it, he’s being deceptive.” He went on to say that he was at a meal where Di Lorenzo confirmed everything: “He said he left the bottles fully prepared, and by the way, he said he probably didn’t do it just for us.”

However, an unexpected voice of moderation emerged from CBF President Ricardo Teixeira, who stated that regardless of what was uncovered, he would not ask FIFA to nullify the game’s result. “On the pitch, they were better than us,” he remarked. “Maradona played well, and Caniggia scored a lovely goal.”

FIFA, on the other hand, has remained silent on the charges.

Source: Sports Nova,, Reddit, Wikipedia, The Guardian

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