COLUMBUS, Ohio – Saturday could be the start of a pivotal period in the marriage of Crew defender Gino Padula and his wife, Xiomara.
If Padula’s native Argentina defeats Germany in a World Cup quarterfinal and Spain beats Paraguay it will set up an epic battle in the Padula household on Wednesday.
“My wife, she is Spanish. If we meet in the semifinals maybe we divorce,” he joked. “I say to her if we lose I’ll take my key and brush her car after the game.”
Actually, all is fair in love and the World Cup.
His wife, whom he met while playing in Spain, also backs Padula’s homeland.
“She has an Argentina shirt,” he said.
It’s not quite as audacious as the Maradona T-shirt Padula will wear Saturday in honor of Argentina’s legendary player and current coach.
Maradona’s face is on the front and a picture of him dribbling around six England players for his second score in the 1986 quarterfinals is on the back. The first goal he scored in that match was the infamous “Hand of God.”
“Greatest goal ever,” said a smiling Padula.
His passion runs deep, maybe more than two other Argentines with the Crew who said they will remain calm during the game.
“I will awake with the game and I will enjoy the game,” forward Guillermo Barros Schelotto said. "I hope Argentina wins."
His concern is more for his player friends and Maradona.
“It’s okay if Argentina wins,” Schelotto said. “It’s okay, too, if they lose but just for my friends (Martin) Palermo, (Carlos) Tevez or Maradona I would feel sorry for them.”
Assistant coach Ricardo Iribarren said he won’t let the match against rival Germany get to him.
“I’m watching as a fan to enjoy the game, not as a crazy fan,” he said. “If we win, fine. If not, it’s okay. I’m also watching as a coach; learning set pieces and how to play different systems.”
Padula wishes the game was later in the day so he can rest for the Crew’s match against Chicago on Saturday night.
“Normally Saturdays I wake up midday, 12 o’clock. This Saturday I wake up around 9,” he said. “If we (Argentina) win I cannot sleep after the game.”
Schelotto thinks Argentina will win, “Argentina is going very well. Germany improved in the last games against Ghana and England so I think it will be a big game. I have confidence in our team.”
Padula didn’t make a prediction
“It is a very difficult game against Germany,” he said. “They have young players that are good.”
Iribarren sees trouble.
“If Germany plays the way they did against England, we’re out,” he said.
Crew midfielder Emmanuel Ekpo, a member of Nigeria’s silver medal team at the 2008 Olympics, said he was surprised but understands why Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan has suspended the national team from international competition for two years after not making it out of the first round of the World Cup.
“It was shocking to me but if you want to look at it in the big picture the NFF [Nigerian Federation], they’re not really doing a good job,” Ekpo said. “The president don’t have the right to tell them to step down because under FIFA rules the government doesn’t have a say.
“I think he’s just trying to disband the team and find a new team but I don’t know how that is going to work,” he added. “They're [NFF] not competent. ”
Ekpo doesn’t think speaking out will harm his chances with a possible new regime.
“If they call me, I come to play good football,” he said. “I’ll keep my fingers crossed.”