Diego Maradona has issued a public apology to FIFA and president Gianni Infantino for inflammatory comments made following England’s victory over Colombia in the last 16 of the World Cup on Tuesday.
England advanced to the quarter-finals of the competition courtesy of a 4-3 penalty shootout victory, with many of the post-match headlines focused on Maradona’s rant.
Taking on an Instagram video on Thursday to make amends, Maradona admitted that he had said some ‘unacceptable things’ in the excitement of rooting for Colombia, in whose shirt he was pictured before the match.
My apologies to FIFA and its president: as much as I may sometimes have opinions contrary to some arbitration decisions, I have absolute respect for the work – not easy – that the institution and the referees do,’ he said.
Maradona had initially caused controversy by describing the result of the tie as a ‘monumental theft’.
He strongly criticised the performance and suitability of American official Mark Geiger and stated that FIFA referees committee chairman Pierluigi Collina should ‘apologise to the Colombian people’.
He added: ‘I told Gianni Infantino that if I worked for FIFA I would change everything. It has to be transparent. That’s why I didn’t go there.’
Such an outburst provoked a strong written rebuke from the governing body, by whom Maradona is being paid £10,000 a game to work as a legends ambassador in Russia.
FIFA said the Argentine’s ‘insinuations’ were ‘entirely inappropriate and completely unfounded.’
‘At a time when FIFA is doing everything within its power to ensure principles of fair play, integrity and respect are at the forefront of this World Cup and how the organisation is now run, FIFA is extremely sorry to read such declarations from a player who has written the history of our game,’ they added in a statement.
Maradona’s behaviour during Argentina’s matches was a running storyline before their last-16 exit at the hands of France.
The 57-year-old apologised for making an offensive gesture toward South Korean fans, and was filmed aggressively raising his middle fingers after Manchester United defender Marcos Rojo scored a late winning goal against Nigeria.
He also required attention from paramedics after that last-gasp win in St Petersburg and unveiled a large flag bearing his own image.
A documentary on Maradona’s life is currently being produced by acclaimed film-maker Asif Kapadia and partly funded by Channel 4. It is due for release in late 2019.