Friday 14 December 2018

Maradona's Fifa role in doubt over antics at matches

Diego Maradona at Argentina’s game on Tuesday. Photo: Reuters
Diego Maradona at Argentina’s game on Tuesday. Photo: Reuters

Ben Rumsby

Diego Maradona's role as a paid ambassador for Fifa came under scrutiny yesterday following his boorish behaviour during Argentina's defeat of Nigeria on Tuesday.

The governing body confirmed note had been taken of Maradona's antics, although it would not comment on whether they would have any impact on his official duties.

The 1986 World Cup-winning captain, said to earn €11,350 plus expenses for any event he attends in his capacity as a Fifa ambassador, reacted to Marcos Rojo's late winning goal with a double one-finger salute before appearing to goad supporters below him in the stands.

He had looked worse for wear in an executive box at the game in St Petersburg - later confessing to having been drinking - before sparking a health scare when needing to be helped from his seat.

The 57-year-old, who required medical assistance at the stadium, was forced to deny rumours he had been taken to hospital and had even died.

Maradona was not on the official Fifa VIP list for the match after having been for Argentina's World Cup opener against Iceland, at which he was seen smoking a cigar at the non-smoking Spartak Stadium.

He apologised for that and had to explain an incident in which he was accused of pulling his eyes to the side while looking in the direction of South Korean fans.

Fifa rules prohibit discrimination by teams, officials and fans at matches it organises and Maradona posted on Facebook that he saw "an Asian boy wearing an Argentina -T-shirt", adding: "I, from afar, tried to tell them how nice it seemed to me that even the Asians cheer for us. And that's all, guys, come on."

After Tuesday's game, he sent a WhatsApp voice message to a journalist friend, in which he said: "Where we were, they were only serving white wine. Yes, we drank all the wine."

Rubbishing false reports he had suffered a fatal heart attack, he added: "I swear on the lives of my mum, my grandson Benjamin and my son Dieguito Fernando's life that nothing happened." In a later voice message to his partner, Rocio Oliva, he said: "Hello, my love. No heart attack, no injection, nothing. I don't know where they're getting it from that I had heart problems or I had to have an adrenalin shot. It all seems so mad, so stupid."

Slurring his words, he added: "It's 3am and we're just getting back to Moscow without any problems. No alcohol or important story."

He also posted: "I want to tell everyone I am fine, and I was not taken to hospital. At half-time, my neck hurt and I had a faint. I was checked by a doctor and he recommended me to go home, but I wanted to stay." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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