- Diego Ariel Duarte named after Diego Maradona and Ariel Ortega
- Paraguay goal-getter is preparing to face Argentina at Brazil 2019
- Already training with the first team at Paraguayan giants Olimpia
When Alipio Duarte saw his son born on 8 April 2002 he had no doubts what the boy’s name should be. A Paraguayan national but a fan of Diego Maradona and also of River Plate, he had him baptised Diego Ariel Duarte after the legendary No10 and the River idol Ariel Ortega.
Blessed by two football luminaries, the boy in question has since made his way to the FIFA U-17 World Cup Brazil 2019™, where he is helping to fire Paraguay’s dreams of going far in the competition. Having won Group F, La Albirroja now face Argentina in the Round of 16.
“This team deserves it and a lot more besides,” said Duarte in an interview with FIFA.com, still dripping with sweat after his side’s 2-1 defeat of Italy on Sunday. The forward scored Paraguay’s equaliser, his second goal of the competition.
“This is a team that really sticks together,” he added. “Our strength lies in our organisation and the discipline we have the whole time. It’s a plan we’re putting into practice.”
As was the case at the South American U-15 Championships in 2017 and the U-17 Championships this year, Duarte’s goals are very much a part of that plan.
The youngster, who is already training with the first team at Paraguayan giants Olimpia, is still feeling his way at Brazil 2019, having been out of action for over a month with an ankle injury. Though Sunday’s meeting with the Italians was his first full 90 minutes since regaining fitness, his contribution has been vital.
“He’s not quite there yet in terms of being fully fit but he’s very important to our team, which is why we brought him here, injured ankle and all,” said Paraguay coach Gustavo Morinigo. “He’s a real fighter and he goes out there with the right attitude too. As a No9 he could do with putting himself about a bit more, but he makes up for that with his presence in the box. He’s an opportunist.”
The statistics back up Morinigo’s words. DD, as Duarte is known, has top-scored for Olimpia at every age level since arriving at the club at the age of 10, and he has also scored freely for the national team.
So why does goalscoring come so easily to him? “It’s just a question of being in the right place and always on the lookout,” said DD. “A No9 who doesn’t score isn’t much use. There’s a lot of intuition involved and a lot of practice too, which is what we were doing at our training camp back home. Now is the time to show all that.”
His father, who was in the stands at the Estadio Bezerrao in Brasilia on Sunday, revealed one of his son’s big ambitions: “He always says that he wants to be Roque II”. Roque is none other than Roque Santa Cruz, Paraguay’s all-time leading goalscorer.
“Roque is an icon because of everything he achieved,” said Duarte. “He’s a national team hero and I’d love to follow in his footsteps.”
And what of Maradona and Ortega? “They were my dad’s heroes,” he replied. “I like my names. I also try to watch the best and learn things from them so I can grow as a player.”