Maradona calls up Ortega for Haiti friendly

BUENOS AIRES - Former Argentina World Cup forward Ariel Ortega was a surprise inclusion on Tuesday in a squad named by coach Diego Maradona for a friendly against Haiti next week.

The 36-year-old River Plate playmaker, who won the last of his 86 caps in 2003, was included in a squad of 17 home-based players to meet Haiti in Cutral Co in the southern Andean province of Neuquen on May 5.

"The truth is this is a great joy for me to be in the national team, the maximum I've ever experienced in football," Ortega, who played at the 1994, 1998 and 2002 World Cups, told a news conference after a River Plate practice.

"After such a long time not wearing the shirt it is something nice, unique. I know this doesn't mean I'll be at the World Cup because for that (the coach) worked with other players and that's fine. I'm grateful to (Maradona) for taking me into account to play this match."

Maradona also included Boca Juniors striker Martin Palermo, a World Cup hopeful, for the warm-up for the finals in South Africa starting on June 11 where Argentina face Nigeria, South Korea and Greece in Group B.

Ortega is one of more than 100 players Maradona has called up during his 18 months in charge and was previously picked for a friendly against Ghana last September which he missed through injury.

The call-up comes after a troubled few days for the little player known as "Burrito" (donkey), who got into a running argument with Estudiantes defender Leandro Desabato during River's league match on Saturday before crashing his car on the way to training on Monday.

Desabato called Ortega a drunkard alluding to the player's drink problems. Ortega retaliated with a studs-up tackle.

Maradona also called up Independiente goalkeeper Adrian Gabbarini, who has been linked with Napoli, for the first time as he tries to decide on a third keeper for his World Cup squad.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Diego Pozo (Colon), Adrian Gabbarini (Independiente)

Defenders: Matias Caruzzo (Argentinos Juniors), Juan Manuel Insaurralde (Newell's Old Boys), Ariel Garce (Colon), Paolo Goltz (Huracan), Luciano Monzon (Boca Juniors)

Midfielders: Juan Mercier (Argentinos Juniors), Patricio Toranzo (Huracan), Nicolas Olmedo (Godoy Cruz), Sebastian Blanco (Lanus), Leonel Vangioni (Newell's Old Boys), Facundo Bertoglio (Colon)

Forwards: Ariel Ortega (River Plate), Martin Palermo (Boca Juniors), Franco Jara (Arsenal), Juan Pablo Pereyra (Atletico Tucuman).

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