The Telegraph
Thursday , June 26 , 2014
CIMA Gallary

Diego opts to stay away

Buenos Aires: Diego Maradona rooted for his beloved Argentina from his hotel room when they played Nigeria on Wednesday, opting to skip the stadium after the country’s FA president suggested he had jinxed the team against Iran.

Julio Grondona said Lionel Messi’s brilliant stoppage-time winner, which gave the South Americans a passage to the last 16 on Saturday, was thanks to “jinxed” Maradona leaving the stands.

The temperamental 1986 World Cup winner promptly shot back by showing Grondona the finger on live television. “Jinx this,” Maradona had said on television as he held up his middle finger in response to Grondona’s comments. “Poor, stupid man. This is Messi’s merit, Not because I left,” Maradona added.

Maradona struck a softer tone on Tuesday night during the “De zurda” soccer commentary programme broadcast on Venezuela’s Telesur and Argentine public television.

“I don’t want to be a problem for the government or for those who don’t want me to go. I’ll stay in the hotel watching on television,” Maradona said. “I would never wish ill upon Argentina.”

Maradona still stokes passions at home, where he is revered for his phenomenal career as a player but draws fire for his chequered stint as national team coach, and foray into drugs and alcohol.

The 82-year-old Grondona, who has been the head of the Argentina FA since 1979, was in charge when Maradona almost single-handedly steered Argentina to World Cup victory in Mexico in 1986.

Maradona was coach of the national team at the last World Cup in 2010.

Meanwhile, Maradona has labelled Brazil's Neymar a genius.

“At 1-1 against Cameroon, the contest was even and it took the genius of Neymar to calm nerves. He hasn’t been a big hit at Barcelona yet, but wearing the yellow shirt, the 22-year old has had some amazing success.

“Brazil are depending on him and instead of getting weighed down, he has shown that he can carry the pressure of expectation.”