Argentine soccer great Diego Maradona attended a Beijing court hearing yesterday which was considering his US$3.2 million image-rights claim against two Chinese Internet companies, state media said.
Maradona accuses the companies of using his name and picture for an online gaming site without asking his permission, news agency Xinhua said.
A Beijing court heard the case against Beijing Sina Internet Information Service Co Ltd — operator of one of China’s largest Internet portals, Sina.com — and Shanghai No. 9 City Information Technology Co Ltd, it said.
A cartoon image of Maradona in his Argentina blue-and-white-striped national-team shirt could yesterday morning still be found on the game’s Web site, qiuqiu.9c.com, Xinhua added.
However, it appeared to have been removed later in the day.
Maradona’s agent in China, Tang Qinghui, said that she could not comment on the case.
However, sources told Xinhua that the 51-year-old is seeking 20 million yuan (US$3.1 million) in compensation.
Tang said Maradona is in China to discuss with soccer officials how the game can be developed in the country at grassroots level.
However, there has been speculation in the Chinese media that he is being lined up to become coach of the underperforming national soccer team.
The former coach of the Argentina national team and United Arab Emirates club Al Wasl held meetings with top Chinese Football Association (CFA) officials on Thursday.
“They did not talk about the national coach job,” Tang said. “Maradona just wants to see football in China develop and to particularly help young footballers.”
Tang said Maradona will also be giving advice to referees and coaches in China.
CFA spokesman Dong Hua also said that the manager’s position was not discussed.
“He met with our vice chairman, Wei Di, but they did not discuss this matter,” he said.
Ex-Real Madrid and Spain boss Jose Antonio Camacho was lured to China as manager on a reported US$8 million a year contract last year.
However, the national team is already out of the running for the 2014 World Cup after they failed to get through a qualifying group topped by Iraq.