FIFA says it “strongly rebukes” comments made by its ambassador Diego Maradona criticising American referee Mark Geiger’s handling of England’s win against Colombia in the World Cup round of 16 on Tuesday. It’s the third controversy involving the Argentina great at the World Cup, which he has mostly attended as a VIP guest of FIFA.
FIFA responded to Maradona telling Venezuelan broadcaster Telesur the outcome of the game was a “monumental theft”.
Maradona had been photographed before the game wearing a yellow Colombia jersey. England advanced to the quarterfinals in a penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw in Moscow.
FIFA says Maradona’s “insinuations” were “entirely inappropriate and completely unfounded.”
“FIFA is extremely sorry to read such declarations from a player who has written the history of our game,” the world football body says in a statement.
Colombia ultimately lost 4-3 on penalties in a match which saw them whistled for 23 of the game’s 36 fouls and given six of the eight yellow cards, with Maradona echoing Colombia captain Radamel Falcao in accusing Geiger of favoring Gareth Southgate’s side.
Geiger awarded a penalty to England after Carlos Sanchez was adjudged to have brought down Harry Kane, although Colombia leveled through Yerry Mina’s stoppage-time header.
“The penalty was not a penalty — it was a foul by Kane,” Maradona told Telesur. “Why didn’t he use VAR? I’m reeling because when I spoke to [FIFA president Gianni] Infantino the first time, everything had changed at FIFA: the thieves had left, the fixes, everything.
”And today I saw a monumental robbery on the pitch. I apologize to the Colombian people, but the players are not to blame as we don’t choose the referees.
“The referees are chosen by [Pierluigi] Collina, who was appointed by Infantino to change the new FIFA from thieves and fixers, and today we saw the opposite — an old and fixed FIFA.”
Maradona, who captained Argentina to victory at the 1986 World Cup, said he was surprised Geiger had been chosen for the match.
Earlier in the tournament, Morocco’s Nordin Amrabat alleged that Geiger had asked for a Portugal player’s shirt during the Group B match between the sides, a claim FIFA denied.
At the 2014 World Cup, then Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi criticized the official for making “a lot of mistakes” in a defeat to France.
“This referee may know a lot about baseball but he has no idea of football,” Maradona said. “It’s very clear to me, Geiger, an American, how curious that he was the one who invented a penalty for Brazil [in a 1-1 friendly draw against Colombia in 2012], that Nigeria accused him at FIFA …”
Maradona previously apologized for making an offensive gesture toward South Korean fans, and was filmed aggressively raising his middle fingers after Argentina scored a late winning goal against Nigeria.