World of Sport

Fiery Argentine legend reduced to tears by son in farewell match

World of Sport

Argentine football legend Ariel Ortega has been at the centre of some incredible moments in his 22-year football career.

The man they call "El Burrito" - or "little donkey" began his amazing life in the game with River Plate back in 1991 .

He went on to play as a devastating attacking midfielder for clubs including Valencia, Sampdoria, Parma and Fenerbahce, and racked up 87 appearances for his international side.

He has collected seven league winners' medals, two cup winners' medals - including a Copa Libertadores - as well as playing in three World Cups and winning an Olympic silver medal in 1996.

There have been bad days as well as good: he was sent off in the 1998 World Cup quarter-finals for headbutting Edwin van der Saar, and missed a penalty which sent his country out of the same tournament four years later.

On pitch woes are only the start of it, though. He has continued to shine on the pitch into his late thirties, but he has been openly battling alcoholism for the last seven years - and probably long before that.

In 2003 his club at the time, Fenerbahce, reported him to FIFA after he failed to return from international duty for two months - two months! - and he ended up serving a four-month ban for breaching his contract.

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He has still managed to return to action, however, scoring a series of extravagant goals in between spells back in rehab in Argentina and Chile in the latter years of his career. His hot temper has not cooled, however, and he has always had to work hard - often unsuccessfully - to walk the tightrope of his own fiery brilliance

Yet throughout all that, the one thing that the world of football never witnesses was the sight of the great man reduced to tears, with Ortega even telling a newspaper a few years ago "I only cry when I'm alone" when asked about his steeliness in the face of all sorts of ups and downs.

All changed in spectacular fashion at the weekend, however. Playing at the age of 39 in the very final match of his incredible career, a testimonial between River Plate and an 'Ortega XI', he set up a perfect pass for his 12-year-old son Tomasito to smash past the keeper.

Little Tomasito played his part to a tee, rifling home his shot to send the 60,000 fans into a frenzy - and in doing so finally break Ortega's composure. The veteran's joy was magnificent and overwhelming, and he walked away from his career weeping tears of joy and pride.

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