Maradona banned for two months

ZURICH - Argentina coach Diego Maradona was banned for two months and fined more than $24,000 on Sunday after a foul-mouthed outburst at the end of last month's decisive World Cup qualifier in Uruguay.

Maradona, 49, who faced a potential ban from some of his team's matches at next year's World Cup, apologised for his behaviour and showed remorse, football's governing body FIFA said.

He was sanctioned after an expletive-filled rant when interviewed on the touchline and produced another outburst in the post-match media conference, which was broadcast live on several television networks. Maradona told the media to "suck it and keep on sucking."

Named as Argentina coach 13 months ago after fighting off drug addiction, alcohol problems and obesity, Maradona appeared in person before the disciplinary tribunal behind closed doors at FIFA headquarters.

"The FIFA disciplinary committee...decided today to impose a two-month ban on taking part in any football related activity and a 25,000 CHF ($24,630) fine on the head coach of Argentina Diego Maradona," a FIFA statement said.

"The committee took into consideration the apologies and the sincere remorse shown by Maradona in its decision, which was communicated to him at the end of the meeting.

"The committee stressed that any breach of this decision or any repetition of a similar incident would mean that stronger sanctions would have to be imposed in the future."

FIFA said the sanction would start immediately and run until January 15. It means Maradona will not have to miss any competitive internationals, although Argentina are due to face the Czech Republic in a friendly at a venue to be decided next month.

The ban is the latest episode in the turbulent career of Maradona, who was thrown out of the 1994 World Cup for a doping offence, one of three such bans he received as a player.

Maradona flew in from Madrid, where his team lost 2-1 to Spain in a friendly on Saturday night. Wearing dark glasses and a track suit, he swept past reporters at Zurich airport refusing to comment.

Around 20 onlookers with Argentina flags and a similar number of journalists gathered outside the gates of FIFA headquarters in a quiet Zurich suburb on a grey, damp autumn day. Maradona was inside the building for just over 2-1/2 hours.

Maradona rounded on his critics after Argentina beat arch-rivals Uruguay 1-0 to secure their berth in the South Africa in the last game of an 18-match qualifying campaign. ANOTHER OUTBURST

The 1986 World Cup winner had been heavily criticised for defeats against Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil and Paraguay that left twice world champions Argentina on the brink of failing to reach the World Cup for the first time since 1970.

Appointed in October last year, Maradona's coaching credential have been repeatedly questioned.

He has called up more than 70 players for 14 matches (eight qualifiers and six friendlies) and been criticised for his team selections.

Maradona's tenure has been marked by clashes with players, coaches, journalists and directors, most notably playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme who quit the team saying he and Maradona did not live "by the same codes".


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