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SPORTS | 27-10-2023 14:21

Alejandro ‘Papu’ Gómez's bizarre post-Qatar fall from grace finally explained

Facing a heavy ban for failing a doping test, Alejandro 'Papu' Gómez's suspension is likely to spell the end of his time as an Argentina player.

The last few days have been hectic indeed, even by the usual breakneck standards of everyday life in Argentina. Sunday's elections and their aftermath have provided a whirlwind of activity and as usual football has been lurking quietly yet ubiquitously in the background, as ahead of November's run-off vote ex-goalkeeper and Chacarita Juniors academy prospect Javier Milei, former Boca Juniors president Mauricio Macri and diehard Independiente fan Patricia Bullrich (political ally of current Rojo president and erstwhile Buenos Aires gubernatorial candidate Néstor Grindetti) line up against Tigre supporter Sergio Massa, who counts one Juan Román Riquelme amongst his closest friends.

Civic responsibilities meant that there was no activity on the pitch itself, but away from it a bombshell had exploded. Alejandro ‘Papu’ Gómez's bizarre post-Qatar fall from grace took a new twist as the World Cup winner and Monza was slapped with a heavy ban for failing a doping test.

Last week it emerged that Gómez had tested positive for the banned substance Terbutaline prior to the World Cup while still a Sevilla player. The winger maintains that he ingested it unwittingly through his young son's cough syrup, which very well be the case; but football's anti-doping rules are ironclad in such matters and insist that final responsibility for such matters lie with the player in question. 

At 35 'Papu' now faces a two-year suspension from professional football, a steep punishment that may well spell the end for his career at the top level.

What seems clear at least is that neither Gómez nor his team-mates in Qatar gained any sporting advantage from his actions. But it is a huge setback for a footballer who seemed to fall out of favour with the newly crowned world champions from almost the moment the madcap December celebrations came to an end.

The first sign that all might not be well came in March, when Lionel Messi and his triumphant team-mates came back to Argentina to parade the World Cup trophy and, in lesser measure, dispute friendlies against Panama and Curaçao. All of the squad was present except Papu, who was ostensibly forbidden from travelling by Sevilla due to an injury. At the same time, however, another, more entertaining story was circulating: that he had been ostracised from the Albiceleste after Messi and Co. discovered he had used 'black magic' to injure Giovani Lo Celso and thereby take his place on the plane to the middle east.

Sadly that tale has never been confirmed, while other hypotheses have also emerged, from incriminating Instagram replies to the partners of team-mates to sharing forbidden details of the raucous parties that followed victory over France. The only hard fact we have to hand is that in the 10 months that have passed since the final Gómez has not received a single call-up to Lionel Scaloni's team, and that contact between the squad and player at least effectively ceased, at least in public. 

With this suspension it is likely safe to pronounce the end of Gómez's time as an Argentina player, but the mystery of his exclusion after the euphoria of Qatar is set to enter the annals of national football folklore and endure long after the last member of the glorious Scaloneta hangs up his boots.

Dan Edwards

Dan Edwards

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