Soccer: Maradona to face FIFA over profane rants at media
ZURICH — Argentina coach Diego Maradona will face a FIFA disciplinary panel Sunday that could ban him from games at next year's World Cup.
Maradona has been summoned to the headquarters of soccer's governing body to explain his expletive-filled rant last month. The outburst, aimed at the Argentine media, came during a news conference after his team clinched a spot in the World Cup in South Africa.
Maradona will arrive in Zurich after coaching Argentina in an exhibition game against European champion Spain in Madrid on Saturday. His case will be heard by FIFA's 17-member disciplinary committee. The panel can consider Maradona's evidence in person, written statements and video footage of the news conference.
Under one provision of FIFA's discipline code, the panel must ban Maradona for at least five games if it finds he offended the "dignity of a person or group of persons through contemptuous, discriminatory or denigratory words."
Maradona would be sidelined until after the quarterfinals if a ban applies to competitive matches instead of exhibition games. But he could be judged by another article in the code relating to "offensive gestures or language," and receive a simple warning or reprimand.
The 49-year-old coach is an iconic figure in his home country, having captained Argentina to the 1986 World Cup title and led the team to the final four years later. He is supported by the Argentina Football Association and its longtime president, Julio Grondona.
Grondona, who also serves as FIFA's senior vice president, implied that Maradona is being singled out because of his status as one of soccer's greats.
"If it were another coach or player, the matter would not have had such importance," Grondona told The Associated Press in a recent interview.
The AFA has filed a statement to FIFA blaming Maradona's tirades on tough questions from reporters before the decisive qualifying match in Uruguay, which Argentina won 1-0. Maradona has had a tense relationship with the media since taking over the national team one year ago at Grondona's invitation.
At the time of Maradona's appointment, Argentina was midway through a qualifying campaign in which the two-time champion was in danger of missing the World Cup for the first time since 1970.
Maradona's team lost four of its next six matches — including a 6-1 defeat in Bolivia and a 3-1 home loss to archrival Brazil — before getting late winning goals in its final two qualifiers to clinch.
Maradona attacked his critics in an on-field interview and at the postgame news conference in Montevideo. He accused the Argentine media of treating him "like garbage."
"If someone feels wounded, I'll apologize if they want. And if not, I'm sorry," he said later, but also insisting he did not regret his comments.
Maradona was punished by FIFA as a player in 1994. He was sent home from the tournament in the United States after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs, including the banned stimulant ephedrine.