BUENOS AIRES (AFP) - Diego Maradona and his Argentinian World Cup squad declined an invitation by the country's president Cristina Kirchner to be received at the presidential palace becaused they deemed themselves unworthy, the president revealed.
The President - who succeeded her husband Nestor as head of state in December 2007 - also said that she had tried to speak to Maradona following the 4-0 hammering by Germany in Saturday's quarter-final but the former playing great had been too upset to talk.
"You know that this president shows her true colours to the people in the difficult moments and not just the good ones," the 57-year-old told a rally in the northern suburb of San Miguel.
"And I invited our squad to come to the Pink House (the presidential palace).
"The players refused because they felt they did not deserve such an accolade but I believe they are wrong because they all deserved it and I will wait for them. Yes, long live Argentina," she added.
Kirchner, who was a senator for 12 years before being elected to the presidency, told all Argentinians to be strong in such a moment of sadness which saw the two-time winners fail to reach the last four for the fifth successive finals.
"On Saturday when Germany beat Argentina, Argentinians were very sad," she said.
"But have patience (gather your strength) Maradona, the squad and the country, even if the sadness will last.
"I called him (Maradona) after his press conference on Saturday but he was not able to talk because he was crying."
However, like most Argentinians, some of whom gave the squad a warm welcome at the airport, she offered her unqualified support to Maradona, who almost singlehandedly inspired the Argentinians to World Cup glory in 1986 where they beat West Germany and then to the final in 1990 where the Germans avenged their defeat.
"I offer my support because nobody has ever given as much pleasure on the pitch than Diego Armando Maradona gave us," she said.
Her speech went down well with her audience who answered with joyous cries of: "Ole, ole, ole, ole, Diegoooo, Diegooooooo!".
Maradona, who has serious financial worries owing the Italian taxman nearly 40million euros in unpaid taxes and interest accrued, hinted on his return to Argentina that he was going to step down.
"That's it, my cycle has finished," Maradona reportedly said as he arrived at his home. "I gave all I had."
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