SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Most of his teammates didn’t know, his head coach had no idea, and the almost 70,000 spectators in the stands would have never guessed.
Di María scored one goal and assisted other in Argentina’s 2-1 win over Chile, in their Copa América Centenario debut at Levi’s Stadium on Monday. The attacking midfielder provided a Man of the Match performance just hours after his maternal grandmother passed away in his native country.
“It’s hard… it’s very hard for my mother, my uncles and everybody,” said Ángel Di María to the TV broadcast cameras immediately after the game, while trying to wipe his tears off with his sweater. “Sometimes you get criticized when you’re here, but when these sort of things happen it’s very hard to be far from your family.”
Immediately after scoring his goal, the native of Rosario ran to the bench where someone from the delegation handed him a t-shirt that included a handwritten message in Spanish to his grandmother that read: “Grandma, I’m going to miss you very much.”
El momento de la dedicatoria emocionante de Di María a su abuela en el gol. pic.twitter.com/Uv74zyOF8t— SportsCenter (@SC_ESPN) June 7, 2016
“I'm happy because I was able to score and dedicate it to my grandmother and all my family who are going through a difficult time,” said Di María during the players’ media availability after the game. “Since this morning when I found out what happened, I knew that at any moment I would score a goal, and I'm thankful I was able to.”
But to everyone’s surprise, only a handful of his teammates knew about the situation, and not even Argentina’s head coach Gerardo Martino was aware.
"I have to be completely honest, I found out five minutes ago that his grandmother had passed. I had no idea,” confessed Martino during his postmatch press conference. “I told him that under any circumstance these situations about life are way more important than a soccer match. He expressed to me that he hadn't said anything because he felt good enough to play.”
After the game, Di María seemed in better spirits and shared a few laughs with the journalists who shared one last moment with him, before the team departed the stadium. The speedy winger acknowledged the reason for his silence about his grandmother’s passing and reflected about it.
“No [I didn't tell them] because I was nervous I wouldn’t have played,” alerted Di María. “And if I hadn't played, my grandma would have gotten angry, so it was better for me to be on the field.
“I reserved it for me, I only uploaded something on Instagram for my followers but I didn't say anything to anybody here.”
It is not the first time Di María shares such an emotional moment after scoring a goal. Back in December 2011, while playing for Real Madrid, the Argentinean scored a goal in a 4-0 away victory against Sevilla for LaLiga, and lifted a T-shirt that read a message to his father-in-law who had died earlier that week.
The Paris St. Germain star played the first 80 minutes of Monday’s game, and he was substituted for Erik Lamela, immediately receiving a standing ovation from the 69,451 present at Levi’s Stadium. Di María’s 51st minute goal was his 17th with the national team and his second consecutive against Chile, following the one he scored last March in World Cup qualifying.