Football legend Diego Maradona has apologized for admonishing FIFA and World Cup referees during an outburst after Colombia’s last 16 loss to England, which he called a “monumental theft.”
In a rant over the quality of refereeing, particularly the performance of match official Mark Geiger, 1986 World Cup winner Maradona criticized FIFA president Gianni Infantino, and the organization’s head of refereeing Pierluigi Collina.
Tomado por la emoción de hinchar por Colombia el otro día, yo dije un par de cosas y, admito, algunas de ellas son inaceptables. Mis disculpas a la FIFA y a su presidente: por mucho que a veces yo pueda tener opiniones contrarias a algunas decisiones arbitrales, tengo absoluto respeto por el trabajo - nada fácil - que hacen la institución y los árbitros.
“Taken by the excitement...the other day, I said a couple of things and, I admit, some of them are unacceptable,” former Argentina captain Maradona said in an Instagram post, accompanied by a picture of himself and FIFA chief Infantino.
“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.”
Ironically, Maradona had demanded an apology from FIFA and himself said sorry to Colombia fans in the wake of their team’s 4-3 penalty shootout defeat at Spartak Stadium after the score was level at 1-1 following extra time and normal time.
Instead, FIFA released a statement in which it “strongly rebuked” the comments of the former Argentinos Juniors, Barcelona and Napoli superstar, labelling them “completely unfounded.”
“Following comments made by Diego Armando Maradona in relation to yesterday’s round of 16 game, Colombia vs England, FIFA strongly rebukes the criticism of the performance of the match officials which it considers to have been positive in a tough and highly emotional match,” world football’s governing body said.
“Furthermore, it also considers the additional comments and insinuations made as being entirely inappropriate and completely unfounded... FIFA is extremely sorry to read such declarations from a player who has written the history of our game.”