Diego Maradona was forced to stub out his fat cigar, but no one could take the smile off his face — or stop him talking — after Argentina’s 3-1 round-of-16 World Cup defeat of Mexico on Sunday.
The 49-year-old Argentina coach kept a packed media room waiting about 20 minutes before arriving in triumph, literally in a puff of smoke, to josh with reporters and even dedicate the win to MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi.
The former soccer great had ambled into the room sucking on a newly lit, enormous cigar, but was swiftly told to put it out. From then on, though, Maradona held court.
“It’s great to be part and parcel of these players and the team. I feel proud I am sharing this moment,” he said, before questions turned to the quarter-final clash with Germany on Saturday in Cape Town. “Let me just enjoy the match against Mexico. You can think whatever you want and you can say whatever you want about what I may think about Germany. You have carte blanche,” he joked.
Under strict guidance from a watching media officer the time swiftly arrived for Maradona to leave the room, but he was having none of it.
“I want to answer more questions and they are trying to send me out,” he said to laughter, before signing off with a message for Rossi.
“I would like to dedicate this match to my friend Valentino Rossi, who got himself injured,” the 1986 World Cup winning captain said.
The 31-year-old Italian Rossi broke his leg at his home Grand Prix three weeks ago. He plans to return to the track in August, he said on Sunday in a statement.
Meanwhile, world soccer’s governing body said yesterday that it was a mistake to show replays of Argentina’s controversial opening goal against Mexico on giant stadium screens.
The replay of Carlos Tevez’s opening goal from a clear offside position sparked a melee during the game and at halftime rival substitutes squared up to one another behind the Mexico bench.
“This shouldn’t happen,” FIFA spokesman Nicolas Maingot told a press conference. “Replays can be shown, but not when there are controversial situations. We will work on this and be tighter in future.”
“It has worked so far very well. Last night was a mistake. It should not happen again,” he added, declining to answer numerous questions on the contentious decisions made by referees and FIFA’s rejection of goal-line technology.
In another questionable decision that angered English fans on Sunday, England were denied an equalizer in their match against Germany when a shot from Frank Lampard hit the crossbar and clearly bounced behind the goal-line.
FIFA is under increasing pressure to allow goal-line technology or an extra referee behind the goal-line to assist in such situations.
Spanish striker Fernando Torres said steps were needed to stop mistakes by officials altering the course of matches.
“We’re tired of asking for technological help for these kinds of situations because they can determine something as important as whether you get knocked out of a World Cup,” the striker told a Spanish radio station.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter has rejected goal-line technology, saying he wants soccer to be played under the same rules at all levels and retain its human element.