Diego Maradona, Argentine football's tormented superstar, played what was billed as the last game of his controversial career in Toronto on Monday. The 35-year-old made a guest appearance alongside his brother, Lalo, for Toronto Italia in an exhibition match against an all-star team from the Canadian National Soccer League, and scored the decisive goal - direct from a corner - in a 2-1 win for his brother's club.
A capacity crowd of over 8,000, many of them from the Argentine immigrant community, packed the small Toronto stadium. When Maradona scored, he was engulfed by hundreds of pitch-invading fans who attempted unsuccessfully to carry away their hero. He was subsequently substituted and was on his way out of the stadium before the final whistle.
Maradona spent 10 days last month in a Geneva drug rehabilitation clinic. He went to Switzerland after abruptly leaving his last Argentine club, Boca Juniors, announcing that he wanted to quit drugs once and for all for the sake of his two daughters. His treatment in the clinic included sessions with psychiatrists aimed at reducing his "emotional overburdening". The clinic's director, Arto Van, said that Maradona was not a drug addict but simply cracked "at fatal moments" under the burden of his fame.
"This is the first step," the clinic's deputy director, Giovanni Spano, said of Maradona's treatment. "You can't change your life like you can change your socks. A full recovery will take time. He wants to quit - but the possibility of a relapse is always a reality."
Before Alan Shearer and Barcelona's new boy, Ronaldo, both overtook him, Gianluigi Lentini, who cost Milan pounds 13m in 1992, was the world's most expensive footballer. He was also one of the world's most rarely-seen players, after he suffered severe head injuries in a near-fatal car crash in 1993 which kept him out of the game for many months.
When he regained his fitness, Lentini found it difficult to break into the team at Milan, where even his huge price tag did not guarantee a first-team place. Now, however, he is trying to relaunch his career at Atalanta, where he will play for a year on loan from Milan.
"I just want to go back to being the good player I was before the accident," the 27-year-old said. Atalanta are coached by Emiliano Mondonico, his former coach at Torino. "Mondonico practically made me," Lentini said. "He gave me the chance to make my mark and I really hope I can keep my promises here."
When Mauritania, who had already been eliminated from the 1998 World Cup by Burkina Faso, were knocked out of the African Nations' Cup by Benin last week, their football federation took drastic action. The national team has been dissolved and this season's domestic league championship has been suspended.
"Since we have been eliminated on all fronts and the next commitments are not for another two years, we have good reason to take a break," the federation president, Mohamed Lemine Cheiguer, said. Perhaps Scotland should consider something similar the next time they get beaten by the likes of Costa Rica...
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