Once again Diego Maradona has taken center stage at the World Cup and not in a good way at all.
The former Argentina superstar found himself embroiled in controversy following an incident where the soccer legend appeared to have made a racist gesture towards a young fan.
While meeting supporters from South Korea ahead of Argentina’s match with Iceland over the weekend, Maradona spotted a young boy wearing one of his country’s jerseys and reportedly pulled his eyes back and to the side in an unabashedly racist manner.
The gesture was immediately met with outrage from soccer fans around the world.
Maradona responded to the incident with a Facebook post on Sunday morning that downplayed the moment, though he didn’t deny or apologize for his act.
“I understand better than anyone that during the World Cup people are always looking for news at all costs,” Maradona wrote. “But let’s take it easy: Today, at the stadium, among the many demonstrations of affection of people, my attention was attracted by a group of people around a fan who was filming us, an Asian boy wearing an Argentina shirt. I, from far away, tried to tell him how nice it seemed to me that even Asians would come for us. And that’s it, guys. Please.”
FIFA has long been concerned with racism among supporters and has taken numerous steps in recent years to enforce penalties against those who commit such acts. With Maradona seen as a living legend by many of the game’s fans, his words and actions always carry an added weight — especially when the World Cup comes around.
After the Iceland-Argentina match, Maradona also apologized for smoking a cigar in the stadium in violation of the World Cup’s policy on tobacco.
“I honestly did not know that no one can smoke in the stadiums,” Maradona wrote. “I apologize to everyone and the organization.”
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