Maradona prompts mixed reaction

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The Independent Online
Football's other bad boy, Diego Maradona, ends a 15-month suspension for drug-taking against South Korea in Seoul today and the former Argentinian captain is already provoking a mixed reaction.

"Despite all his arrogance and controversial behaviour, one thing about him is more than admirable: his sincere attitude in training," said the Sports Seoul.

The daily noted during his week-long stay in the South Korean capital, the 35-year-old Maradona had not missed a single training session but had broken promises of public appearances, leaving fans, including children, in the lurch.

He cancelled a coaching session for children at an amusement park after they had waited two hours for him. And about 1,000 fans who waited in the rain for an hour at a train station were disappointed to see the maestro perform some juggling tricks for 10 minutes.

Maradona, heavier and slower, will turn out for Boca Juniors, with whom he signed a two-year contract in June, in his first match since playing against Nigeria in the 1994 World Cup in the United States, where he was expelled for using the stimulant ephedrine. It was Maradona's second drug ban after a 15-month ban for cocaine use while playing for Napoli.

On Thursday he teamed up with his old partner, Claudio Caniggia, to put on a display of shooting and passing prowess. But Maradona stumbled several times during the hour-long session and appeared to tire easily.

Maradona, with the visiting Argentinian president among the spectators, is confident of a brilliant return."I was not on a break for 15 months. For those months, I have been continuously training," he said.

South Korea is using the match to further their campaign against Japan to stage the 2002 World Cup.