Maradona will be under closer scrutiny now

Diego Maradona in Zurich on Sunday.

It was a tournament he left in ignominy in 1994 after being sent home for a doping offence and it seems unlikely he would risk missing out again.

Maradona famously said at the time that his legs had been cut off, but FIFA's punishment this time round amounts to more of a heavy slap on the wrist rather than anything more drastic. Having faced a touchline ban which could have sidelined him from part of next year's World Cup, he will instead miss two months of the year in which Argentine soccer takes its summer break. 

A planned friendly against the Czech Republic next month, at a so-far unnamed venue, is the only match he is likely to have to sit out. The ban is largely symbolic.  FIFA's disciplinary committee were apparently impressed by what they described as the personal apologies and sincere remorse shown by Maradona who flew to the hearing in Switzerland from Madrid, where the previous night he had watched his team lose 2-1 to Spain.

The committee may also have been influenced by an Argentine FA report explaining that Maradona was acting "in a state of violent emotion over arguments with journalists" in the days before the World Cup qualifier.  Long accustomed to run-ins with reporters, such as the notorious occasion he fired an air pistol at a group of newshounds, Maradona had previously refused to apologise publicly for the outburst.

Aggrieved over criticism of his work in charge of the Argentina team, he felt vindicated by qualification even though his team lost at home to Brazil and away to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay on the way.

But it was made clear on Sunday that a repetition of his verbal tirades would lead to heavier sanctions.   The Argentine FA will have to look at how the team are coached during the next two months and in his absence there will doubtless be cries for his head.
But more importantly, Maradona will be under even closer scrutiny when the ban ends. In that same news conference which prompted Sunday's hearing Maradona said, tellingly: "I am black or white, there is no grey in my life."

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