x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Students in awe of lecturer who was touched by the 'hand of God'

The Emirati students at the Ras al Khaimah Men's College could hardly believe their eyes.

The Villanueva family, Clarisa Carubin, Faustino, Felicitas and Emiliano in their national team's colours.
The Villanueva family, Clarisa Carubin, Faustino, Felicitas and Emiliano in their national team's colours.

The Emirati students at the Ras al Khaimah Men's College could hardly believe their eyes. On the board was a photo of a young Diego Maradona wearing the blue and gold of Argentinian club Boca Juniors with his arms around a child on either side of him. The child on his left was their business lecturer, Emiliano Villanueva. "Last semester there was a football theme at the college and my picture was there," Mr Villanueva said. "The kids were surprised. Maradona was so young. I was eight years old, so they were surprised to see their teacher with Maradona."

The picture was taken on Argentina's National Day, May 25, 1981, at the Malvinas Argentinas stadium in Mendoza. Mr Villanueva's father snapped the photo. Mr Villanueva is particularly fond of the picture because it was taken before Maradona had played in his first World Cup, in 1982, and before he became a household name after his two famous goals against England at the 1986 tournament - "The hand of God" and "The Goal of the Century". That year's team became champions.

Maradona now coaches Argentina and Mr Villanueva is expecting his squad, including the 2009 player of the year, Barcelona forward Lionel Messi, to go far in the tournament. "I am very proud of Maradona as a football player," Mr Villanueva said. "As a manager, he is just starting. If he gets Argentina to the final it will be quite an achievement for him." Mr Villanueva will be following the team's progress from the northernmost emirate, where he, his wife and their son and daughter, aged nine and four, are the only Argentines. He arrived about four years ago from Barcelona.

During the World Cup, he said,that will make for interesting viewing as his friends will take turns hosting when their country is playing. "We are very well organised," he said. "The community has lot of different nationalities so we are going to get together." He will be heading back to Argentina in mid-June, but in the meantime, he said he could count on support from his 20-year-old students, who are "very football oriented".

"These guys love football here," he said. "They know everything about football. It is like my topic every single day at the college with my students. So it is going to be a great experience for me to be here."