MOSCOW (Reuters) - Diego Maradona may be a giant of the game’s history, soccer’s governing body FIFA said on Friday, but even he must show respect to other fans at World Cup stadiums.
Asked about complaints that the 57-year-old had made an obscene gesture at other spectators after Argentina snatched a late win on Wednesday, FIFA’s World Cup chief executive Colin Smith told reporters that the former Argentine player was a valued part of its Legends program to promote the game.
“The players who helped write the history of football have a part to play,” Smith said. “Diego Maradona, obviously one of the greatest footballers who ever lived, is a part of that.”
But, saying FIFA was aware of incidents such as that during Argentina’s vital group game against Nigeria in St. Petersburg, he added: “We would expect all players, former players, staff, fans, everyone to behave in a respectful manner.”
During the game, Maradona drew attention with his antics in the stands, lapping up adulation from fans, unveiling a poster of himself and seemingly falling asleep at one point. Then, after Marcos Rojo’s 86th-minute winner secured Argentina’s place in the last 16, he made a middle-finger gesture with both hands.
“From the hands of God, to the fingers of shame”, read one headline in Latin America, referring to Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal against England at the 1986 World Cup. The Argentine is no stranger to controversy, having once shot at journalists with an air rifle, and he has battled cocaine and alcohol addictions.
Reporting by Alastair Macdonald ; @macdonaldrtr; Editing by Christian Radnedge