JOHANNESBURG - Diego Maradona was forced to stub out his fat cigar but no one could take the smile off his face - or stop him talking - after Argentina's 3-1 last 16 World Cup defeat of Mexico on Sunday.
The 49-year-old Argentina coach kept a packed media room waiting about 20 minutes before arriving in triumph, literally in a puff of smoke, to josh with reporters and even dedicate the win to the MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi.
The former football great had ambled into the room sucking on a newly lit, enormous cigar but was swiftly told to put it out. From then on, though, Maradona held court.
"It's great to be part and parcel of these players and the team. I feel proud I am sharing this moment," he said before questions turned to their quarter-final clash with Germany on Saturday in Cape Town.
"Let me just enjoy the match against Mexico. You can think whatever you want and you can say whatever you want about what I may think about Germany. You have carte blanche," he joked.
Under strict guidance from a watching media officer the time swiftly arrived for Maradona to leave the room but he was having none of it.
"I want to answer more questions and they are trying to send me out," he said to laughter before signing off with a message for Rossi.
"I would like to dedicate this match to my friend Valentino Rossi who got himself injured," the 1986 World Cup winning captain said.
The 31-year-old Italian Rossi broke his leg at his home Grand Prix three weeks ago. He plans to return to the track in August, he said on Sunday in a statement.comments