Irate Argentine government officials on Wednesday ordered the uncovering of a large map of the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands, whose ownership it disputes with Britain, at a stadium in Mendoza hosting matches of the Under-20 World Cup.
The map is a permanent feature on the scoreboard at Estadio Malvinas Argentinas, the same name by which Argentina calls the islands over which they fought a bloody war with Britain in 1982.
But during a match played at the stadium on Tuesday, officials noticed the map had been covered by insignia relating to the FIFA U20 World Cup, igniting a flood of condemnation from national government officials..
Early on Wednesday, the Foreign Ministry's Malvinas, Antarctic and South Atlantic Secretariat Secretary Guillermo Carmona issued a statement demanding “explanations” from the Mendoza Province Government and expressing the national administration’s “firm rejection” of the incident.
A Malvinas war veterans body also denounced "an act of betrayal and disrespect" in a note to the Argentine Football Association (AFA).
Hours later, the Mendoza Province government ordered that FIFA banners be removed to uncover the map, restoring it and an Argentine flag placed at the side of the big screen and electronic scoreboard.
"They have already removed the signage that mentioned the championship (U20WC) and covered up the map of the Malvinas Islands. FIFA's inadvertent mistake was corrected. However, we emphasise that both the badges on the field of play and the entrance to the Malvinas Argentinas Museum were never covered up," wrote Mendoza Province Governor Rodolfo Suárez (Juntos por el Cambio), an opponent of the national government, on his official Twitter account.
The stadium, some 1,000 kilometres (621 miles) west of Buenos Aires, was built for the 1978 World Cup and initially named after the province. But four years later, shortly after the end of the conflict over the islands, it was renamed.
Argentina claims the islands off the Patagonian coast as its own, and in 1982 sent soldiers to take the territory. Britain sent nearly 30,000 troops halfway round the world to repel the Argentines.
The war lasted 74 days and left more than 900 dead – 649 Argentine and 255 British soldiers as well as three island inhabitants.
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Britain emerged victorious, but the campaign left a deep wound, despite diplomatic and economic ties recovering since then.
England, also competing in the U20 World Cup, are not expected to play any matches at the stadium.
Several weeks ago, Argentines were also angered by reports that FIFA had asked for the stadium to be renamed Mendoza for purposes of the tournament. The province denied such a request was being considered, branding the accusation as a “big lie.”