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   20 May, 2002 | 1405 IST


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Old offence threatens Maradona visit

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Diego Maradona's famed number 10 shirt may not be going to the World Cup in Japan -- but neither will he unless his travel visa comes through soon.

Maradona, who led Argentina to World Cup victory in Mexico in 1986, is barred by law from entering Japan because of a drug offence dating back to 1991, and is waiting to hear whether an exception will be made, his agent Guillermo Coppola said on Wednesday.

"It's a shame about Japan," Coppola said. "They let in the people who dropped the bomb on Hiroshima and yet they won't let Diego in ... The (embassy) has not answered yet. There is still a chance but there are only five days left."

Maradona was arrested for taking cocaine in April 1991 shortly after retruning to Argentina from Italy.

He was ordered by a judge to quit the habit under medical supervision.

Maradona has been contracted to work for a Mexican TV channel and newspaper covering the tournament from Japan.

Argentina's number 10 shirt will not be making an appearance when the squad embark on their quest for a third World Cup triumph after FIFA authorised the Argentine Football Association to drop the shirt in honor of Maradona.

Coach Marcelo Bielsa's official 23-man squad, handed to reporters at their Japanese World Cup camp at Naraha on FIFA deadline day on Wednesday, had the players numbered from one to 24 with no number 10.

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