Diego Maradona has apologised to FIFA after an outspoken attack on the referee for Colombia’s defeat to England at the World Cup.
Argentina’s 1986 World Cup-winning captain claimed Colombia suffered a “monumental robbery” in the last-16 tie on Tuesday after England were awarded a penalty for a foul on Harry Kane.
Maradona said American referee Mark Geiger “knows a lot about baseball but has no idea about football” and also criticised FIFA for appointing him to the match in Moscow.
His remarks earned him a rebuke from tournament organisers FIFA, whom it is understood pay Maradona around 10,000 US dollars a game as part of its ‘Legends’ ambassador programme.
Maradona has now backtracked in a post on Instagram.
He wrote: “Taken by the excitement of supporting Colombia the other day, I said a couple of things and, I admit, some of them are unacceptable. My apologies to FIFA and its president.”
Maradona added: “As much as I may sometimes have opinions contrary to some refereeing decisions, I have absolute respect for the work – not easy – that the institution and the referees do.”
Maradona, 57, had accused England players of conning Geiger and said the referee should have reviewed, and then overturned, the penalty decision.
He told Venezuelan television channel Telesur: “As the captain of legends, I have to tell (FIFA president Gianni) Infantino this cannot be left like this. This is a fatal mistake for a whole country.”
FIFA said it was “extremely sorry to read such declarations from a player who has written the history of our game”.
A statement added: “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.
“Furthermore, it also considers the additional comments and insinuations made as being entirely inappropriate and completely unfounded.”