May 27, 2015 / 8:29 PM / 4 years ago

Argentina soccer great Maradona delights in FIFA graft probe

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Diego Maradona, one of soccer’s most gifted players, said he was “enjoying” the spectacle of several of the world governing body’s top officials charged with corruption after U.S. and Swiss authorities announced investigations on Wednesday.

Argentina's former soccer player Diego Maradona speaks in the Soccerex Asian Forum on developing the business of football in Asia at the King Hussein Convention Center at the Dead Sea, Jordan, May 4, 2015. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed

Maradona, a World Cup winner in 1986 with Argentina and whose career was blighted by drug addiction and alcoholism, said it was time for FIFA to stop peddling lies and confront the truth.

“They called me mad, but thankfully today the truth is out and I am enjoying it,” Maradona told Argentine radio station La Red.

U.S. authorities announced nine soccer officials and five sports media and promotions executives were indicted on charges involving more than $150 million in bribes. The probe exposed a web of complex money laundering schemes, prosecutors said. Swiss authorities arrested seven people.

Those detained did not include FIFA chief Sepp Blatter, with whom Maradona has frequently clashed and previously accused of running the organization like a mafia.

“They hate soccer. They hate transparency. Enough shady dealings. Enough lying to the people,” Maradona railed.

The scandal threw the world’s most popular sport into turmoil days before a vote that is expected to put Blatter in office for a fifth term.

Maradona underlined his support for Jordan’s Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein’s bid for soccer’s top job.

“We’re going to remove all the old-timers, we’ll have to see if Blatter wins this time,” Maradona said. “With Ali, the good will remain and the bad I will personally kick you know where.”

Maradona, 54, was himself never far from controversy during his dazzling career. In 1991 he failed a drug test, for cocaine, earning a 15 month suspension from the sport and he was sent home from the 1994 World Cup after testing positive for a banned stimulant. In 1998, Maradona was given a suspended jail sentence for shooting at journalists with an air rifle.

Reporting by Maximilian Heath, Richard Lough; Editing by Grant McCool

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