Maradona arrested after airport row

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The Independent US

The former Argentinian footballer Diego Maradona has flown home to Buenos Aires after being arrested by police following an incident at Rio de Janeiro's international airport.

Maradona, who had been taking part in a charity football match in the Brazilian city on Wednesday evening, arrived late for his flight back to Buenos Aires and found the gate already shut.

He reportedly become highly agitated when he was informed by staff that he could not board the flight which was ready for take-off. It was alleged that he started to "destroy" part of the VIP area, including breaking down a door.

Staff from the Brazilian airline TAM called police to the desk at Rio's Tom Jobim airport who detained the 45-year-old. After several hours of interrogation, and negotiation aided by the Argentinian consul Agostin Molin, Maradona was released without charge.

The footballer, who has suffered drug and health problems since retiring from the professional game in 1997, agreed to pay for the door which he broke during the disturbance. A police spokesman said authorities were satisfied that the matter had been resolved.

A fellow former Argentina footballer, Alejandro Mancuso, said the airline had acted in bad faith. "We arrived with Diego very quiet and went to the duty-free shop. When they announced boarding, we approached and they closed the plane door in our faces. The anger was logical and justified," he said.

A TAM spokeswoman confirmed that Maradona had not used the airline to return home after the incident. Maradona has, in recent years, battled cocaine and alcohol addictions and also lost considerable weight after an operation.

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