Diego Maradona Rebuked by FIFA for Criticism of Referee in England vs. Colombia

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJuly 4, 2018

TOPSHOT - Argentinian former football player Diego Armando Maradona  reacts during the Russia 2018 World Cup round of 16 football match between France and Argentina at the Kazan Arena in Kazan on June 30, 2018. (Photo by SAEED KHAN / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS        (Photo credit should read SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)
SAEED KHAN/Getty Images

FIFA responded to Diego Maradona's strong criticism of referee Mark Geiger following England's penalty shootout win over Colombia, saying it "strongly rebukes" Maradona's "insinuations" and calling them "entirely inappropriate and completely unfounded," according to ESPN.com

Maradona, a FIFA ambassador, spoke on Venezuelan TV station Telesur following that game, in particular focusing on a penalty given to England that led to a goal, per Adriana Garcia of ESPN.com:

"The penalty was not a penalty—it was a foul by [Harry] Kane. Why didn't he use VAR? I'm reeling because when I spoke to [FIFA president Gianni] Infantino the first time, everything had changed at FIFA: The thieves had left, the fixes, everything.

"And today I saw a monumental robbery on the pitch. I apologize to the Colombian people, but the players are not to blame as we don't choose the referees. The referees are chosen by [Pierluigi] Collina, who was appointed by Infantino to change the new FIFA from thieves and fixers, and today we saw the opposite—an old and fixed FIFA."

"FIFA is extremely sorry to read such declarations from a player who has written the history of our game," the organizing body said in its statement in response to those remarks.

Colombian forward Radamel Falcao also criticized Geiger after the loss. 

"The referee disturbed us a lot, in the 50-50 plays, he always made the calls in favor of England," he said, per the Guardian. "This situation was undermining us. He didn't act with the same criteria for both teams. When in doubt, he always went to the England side. It's shameful that this happens in the round of 16 of a World Cup."

Falcao also said that Geiger only spoke in English during the match, which England won 4-3 in penalties after the teams remained drawn 1-1 after regulation.

Colombia was given six of the eight yellow cards handed out by Geiger and were whistled for 23 of the 36 fouls called in the contest.

England manager Gareth Southgate likely was fine with that ratio, however, noting after the game, "I thought there were many, many fouls in the game and I don’t think we conceded anywhere near the number of our opponents," per Stuart James of the Guardian.

Maradona and Falcao clearly felt different and weren't the first to complain about Geiger during this tournament. Morocco’s Nordin Amrabat claimed that Geiger asked for Portugal defender Pepe's shirt after the game between Morocco and Portugal.

"I don't know what [Geiger] is used to, but he was very impressed by Cristiano [Ronaldo]," he said, per the Guardian. "I've been just told by Pepe that... he asked if he could have his shirt. Come on, man. What are we talking about? We are at the World Cup, not a circus here."

FIFA denied Amrabat's allegations, saying in a statement: "FIFA referees are under clear instructions with regard to their behavior and relationship with the teams at the 2018 Fifa World Cup Russia and it can be confirmed that Mr. Geiger has acted in an exemplary and professional manner as an appointed match official."

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