Football: Around the World - `Now Maradona wants to emigrate to Cuba

Rupert Metcalf
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Argentina

Despite launching yet another comeback last weekend, Diego Maradona declared on Thursday that his retirement is imminent once more - and that he wants to defect to Cuba.

Maradona, who played in two World Cup finals for , said: "I'm close to retiring. I'd go to Cuba for Fidel [Castro], the warm climate and because I get on very well with the Cubans." He frequently visits Cuba and counts Castro, the country's leader, as a close friend.

The 36-year-old scored from the penalty spot as his club, Boca Juniors, beat Newell's Old Boys 2-1 in Buenos Aires last Sunday. Maradona had been provisionally suspended by the Argentine Football Association after failing a drugs test which followed Boca's first game of the season, but last week a federal court ordered the ban to be lifted pending an investigation into the test sought by his lawyer. It was the third time Maradona, who has served two 15-month suspensions since 1990, had failed a drugs test.

Maradona's sudden interest in emigrating may well be linked to what happened on Wednesday, when a Buenos Aires appeals court rejected his plea to be judged by a federal court for wounding journalists with an air-gun in 1994. The case will now be heard by a provincial court, which is more likely to impose a jail term rather than sentence him to do social work.

Egypt

Tomorrow's final of the Fifa World Under-17 Championship in Cairo, between Brazil and Ghana, will be overshadowed by controversy. Ghana beat Spain 2-1 in Thursday's semi-final - which was not a result that the Spanish coach was happy with. Juan Santisteban accused the Africans of packing their side with over-aged players.

"I can recognize at least eight of them who were members of the Ghanaian Under-17 team in the 1991 World Cup, which would make them 23 years old now," an angry Santisteban alleged. "But the Ghanaian team is well known for bringing older players, and professionals." He did admit that Ghana deserved to win.

Ghana's coach, Emmanuel Afranie, did not comment on Santisteban's accusations.

Spain

Jorge Valdano lost his job as coach of Valencia this week - because he cannot count. In Sunday's 2-1 defeat to Celta Vigo Valdano wrongly introduced a fifth foreigner as a substitute, was forced to remove him by the referee, and had to watch his side complete the game with 10 players. "I ask for forgiveness because I am the only one responsible," Valdano said. In vain...

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