An intriguing side-plot throughout the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Diego Maradona has decided to take a decisive step back from critical remarks he directed at FIFA in the wake of Colombia's round-of-16 defeat to England.
A consistent presence throughout Argentina's four games at this World Cup, Maradona was also in attendance as Colombia went out of the competition after defeat in a penalty shoot-out to England. Disgusted at witnessing what he described as a "monumental theft," Maradona offered his apologies to "all the Colombian people."
Encouraging his fellow South Americans not to blame the players, Maradona instead targeted the referee Mark Geiger, and Pierluigi Collina, "the man who designates the referees." Furthermore, Maradona claimed that "if I worked for FIFA I would change everything. It has to be transparent."
A swift rebuttal from FIFA followed:
Following comments made by Diego Armando Maradona in relation to yesterday’s round of 16 game, Colombia vs England, 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. At a time when FIFA is doing everything within its power to ensure principles of fair play, integrity and respect are at the forefront of this World Cup and how the organisation is now run, FIFA is extremely sorry to read such declarations from a player who has written the history of our game.
Additionally frustrating for FIFA is the fact that Maradona has been attending games as a guest of the governing organisation.
Stung by the official response from FIFA, or perhaps a less transparent slap on the wrists, Maradona has issued an apology via his Instagram account.
Tomado por la emoción de hinchar por Colombia el otro día, yo dije un par de cosas y, admito, algunas de ellas son inaceptables. Mis disculpas a la FIFA y a su presidente: por mucho que a veces yo pueda tener opiniones contrarias a algunas decisiones arbitrales, tengo absoluto respeto por el trabajo - nada fácil - que hacen la institución y los árbitros.
Apologising for his remarks, the World Cup winner from 1986 conceded that the job of the referees is "not easy" - a detail he, more infamously than any perhaps, is well aware of.
Suggesting that he was whipped up by the excitement of the fixture, Maradona admitted that he "said a couple of things and, I admit, some of them are unacceptable." Offering particular apologies to Gianni Infantino, he declared that he had "absolute respect" for the work he is doing.