Fifa chides Maradona for 'monumental robbery' remarks

MOSCOW • Fifa condemned comments by Diego Maradona on Wednesday, after the Argentinian legend claimed that Colombia lost to England in their World Cup last-16 match only because of the appointment of American referee Mark Geiger for the match.

The 1986 World Cup winner said England's win was a "monumental robbery" after Gareth Southgate's men edged through a bad-tempered encounter on penalties on Tuesday.

"I apologise to all the Colombian people, but the players are not to blame - here is a gentleman (Fifa's referee committee head Pierluigi Collina), who decides to choose a referee who, by googling him, can't be used for a match of this magnitude," Maradona said.

The 57-year-old was at the match as a guest of Fifa and was pictured before the game wearing a Colombia shirt.

World football's governing body responded, saying it was "extremely sorry" to read the comments from "a player who has written the history of our game".

"Following comments made by Diego Maradona, 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," a Fifa spokesman said.

"Furthermore, it also considers the additional comments and insinuations made as being entirely inappropriate and completely unfounded."

Geiger was suspended from international football for six months after several controversial decisions during a 2015 Gold Cup semi-final between Panama and Mexico.

He also refereed Colombia's 3-0 group-stage win over Greece at the 2014 World Cup.

Former England striker Gary Lineker laughed off Maradona's comments, referencing his infamous "Hand of God" goal against England in the 1986 quarter-finals.

"The sheer effrontery from the fella who punched one in," he said on Twitter.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 06, 2018, with the headline 'Fifa chides Maradona for 'monumental robbery' remarks'. Print Edition | Subscribe