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Diego Maradona and Co’s health ‘put at risk’ by FIFA during Legends matches

InternationalDiego Maradona and Co's health 'put at risk' by FIFA during Legends matches

FA’s medical chief has slammed world football’s ruling body for staging Legends matches at their own headquarters in Zurich without a pitchside defibrillator.

Belgium’s FIFA council member Michel D’Hooghe was visibly angry at the lack of emergency medical equipment on the touchline for the tournament held at FIFA House, especially considering the ages and physical shape of those playing — notably Diego Maradona, 56, once the world’s greatest player.

Along with Maradona, the former stars taking part included Spain’s Carles Puyol and Michel Salgado, South Africa’s Lucas Radebe, Argentina’s Gabriel Batistuta and Croatia’s Zvonimir Boban, now FIFA deputy secretary general.

Diego Maradona took part in a FIFA Legends match ahead of the awards ceremony in Zurich
Diego Maradona took part in a FIFA Legends match ahead of the awards ceremony in Zurich

The Argentine legend played alongside FIFA president Gianni Infantino on Monday
The Argentine legend played alongside FIFA president Gianni Infantino on Monday

The Argentine legend played alongside FIFA president Gianni Infantino on Monday

They were joined by a number of top football administrators led by FIFA president Gianni Infantino.

Other suits on the pitch were CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani, Brazil football chief Fernando Sarney, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin and America’s Sunil Gulati.

There were two defibrillators, used to revive heart-attack victims, stored nearby in the offices and the gym.

But D’Hooghe, chairman of FIFA’s medical committee, said: ‘FIFA are not setting a good example. The equipment should be ready for use beside the pitch, not in the building. The first three minutes are the most important in the event of the heart stopping.

‘And this is a dangerous day, with many of the legends and the football officials not being particularly fit. It’s high risk.’

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp shelters from the rain during a training session on Monday
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp shelters from the rain during a training session on Monday

How much longer can the FA allow high-profile figures like Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp to do TV commercials for gambling companies, as he has done for club sponsors Bet Victor since the start of the season, when all in football are banned from betting?

The FA consider it a difficult issue but are aware of the money that betting companies pour into the sport.

Liverpool declined to comment but see the ads for Bet Victor, their training wear backers, as being a club issue rather than a matter specifically for Klopp.

England full back Alex Scott joined Maradona and Infantino in the Swiss snow
England full back Alex Scott joined Maradona and Infantino in the Swiss snow

Since FIFA president Gianni Infantino blatantly uses Legends matches to promote his election pledge to bring football back to FIFA, at least Zurich officials are now allowing the media to watch the games from a decent vantage point.

This was not the case for the first Legends match in Mexico City ahead of the 2016 FIFA Congress, when the Press were herded behind barbed wire in a partly derelict tier in the Azteca Stadium.

Whatever Infantino’s PR motives, England’s only representative, Alex Scott, was delighted to be on the same side as Maradona.

She said: ‘I just wanted to keep passing him the ball. Then he came up to me after the game and said what a good player I was. I think he was genuine. What a dream.’

 

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