Australia’s 1993 World Cup qualifier against Argentina is remembered for two things.
It was the day the Australian public saw Maradona live and it was the day the Australian public saw Paul Wade shutdown Maradona in a crucial first leg in Sydney.
“In the week leading up every newspaper was about Maradona,” Wade said.
“It was about whether he was playing up front or in midfield because if he was up front Mehmet Durakovic was going to mark him.”
Wade told FNR he whispered “happy birthday” to Maradona in the tunnel before the game to help ease the stress.
“He gave me a look which said ‘you’re kidding me’,” Wade said.
“It made me feel better it took away the stress because he shook my hand and I thought ‘I’ve just made you human’.”
“The worst part is getting changed and standing there looking at him in the tunnel trying to look tough.”
Despite being held well by Wade, it was Maradona who provided the assist for the opening goal which was eventually cancelled out by Aureilio Vidmar ensuring the first leg ended all square.
Wade’s performance did not go unnoticed in Argentina, according to the former Socceroo the public christened him as the “dancing Aussie.”
“They called me that because I was standing behind him watching him then he’d flick the ball over with his left foot and he’d be off,” Wade said.
“When we went over there for the second leg the president said they would go into mourning if they lost to Australia.”
Argentina went on to win the second leg 1-0 and qualify for the 1994 FIFA World Cup.
Wade is the fourth most capped player for Australia, having made 84 appearances for the national team.