Diego Maradona says he's 'fine' after fears are raised over health at Argentina match
Diego Maradona was treated by paramedics after appearing to collapse following Argentina’s victory over Nigeria at the World Cup in Russia.
Video footage showed the 57-year-old, wearing dark glasses, staggering from his seat in an executive box aided by three minders after the final whistle. He can then be seen collapsing in a chair inside the arena.
Maradona was then attended to by Russian paramedics inside the stadium. Initial reports suggested he had been taken to hospital but this was denied by sources close to the Argentina Football Association, who said the former player had been "stabilised" after concerns over his blood pressure.
Maradona later dispelled those rumours saying he was 'fine' but that he had been told by medics to leave the match at half-time because of a neck injury.
"I want to tell everyone that I am fine, that I am not, neither was I interned.
"In the half-time of the game against Nigeria, my neck hurt a lot... I was checked by a doctor and he recommended me to go home before the second half, but I wanted to stay because we were risking it all. How could I leave? I send a kiss to everyone, thanks for the support!"
Maradona’s behaviour had been erratic throughout the evening. Before the game had even begun, he was photographed slumped forward in his seat in the front row of the VIP box, propped up by the metal railing.
He rose to his feet in characteristic triumphal pose when Lionel Messi put Argentina ahead early in the match. By half time he appeared comatose or else asleep in his seat.
Later on in the game, television cameras caught him dancing with a female Nigerian fan and then gesturing obscenely to the crowd. He displayed the middle finger of both hands simultaneously. The gesture could prompt an investigation for aggressive behaviour that could incite violence at a football match.
When Argentina scored a late winner, Maradona celebrated manically before collapsing minutes later.
Maradona, who appears overweight, had suffered from long-term cocaine addiction.
He failed a drugs test at the 1994 World Cup and four years later was given a suspended prison sentence for shooting at reporters with an air rifle.
But Maradona remains Argentina’s greatest and most adored footballer due to his success in leading the country to victory in the 1986 World Cup.
Jubilant fans leaving the St Petersburg stadium reacted with shock at the news of his collapse. “It is very sad if he is sick. He is still our great hero,” said one.