World Cup chit-chat:Maradona backs Suarez, says FIFA may as well throw him into Gitmo
Diego Maradona blasted FIFA's ban on Uruguay striker Luis Suarez as "criminal" and said world soccer's governing body might as well handcuff the striker and lock him up in Guantanamo prison.
"Who did Suarez kill?" Maradona said during his soccer commentary programme broadcast on Venezuela's Telesur and Argentine public television on Thursday night.
"This is football, this is contact," the Argentine legend said.
"They may as well handcuff him and bring him to Guantanamo directly."
The controversial U.S. prison in Cuba, opened during the Bush administration, is heavily criticized by human rights groups for indefinite imprisonment of many detainees without charge or trial.
Temperamental 1986 World Cup winner Maradona, known for his flamboyant declarations, is echoing outrage in Uruguay, where many are fuming at a ban they deem exaggerated, hypocritical or outright biased.
Many abroad, however, were horrified by brilliant but volatile Suarez's biting of Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini on Tuesday.
Suarez was given longest sanction imposed at a World Cup by soccer's governing body on Thursday, suspended from all football-related activity for four months and banned for nine international matches.
But Maradona, who like Suarez emerged from a poor background to rise to global fame, fervently defended "Luisito" throughout the programme, at the end even unveiling a T-shirt with
"We're with you Luisito" scrawled on the front.
"If he made a mistake, fine, they should punish him, but they shouldn't exaggerate, they shouldn't be moralistic," said Maradona, who is close to Cuba's former president Fidel Castro.
Leftist Uruguayan president Jose Mujica also phoned in to the programme, blasting what he saw as a move to sideline Uruguay from the tournament where many European heavyweights have bit the dust.
"We kicked out Italy, we kicked out England, how much money was lost there?," said Mujica, a 79 year-old former guerrilla.
"We're Uruguay, we're very little. It was cheap (for them to do)."
The European establishment could not understand Suarez's tough street style, Mujica and Maradona opined.
"Incredible players are often born here in the heart of poverty," Mujica said. "They don't understand him because they don't want to and because they were born in another society with other resources."
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Image: Diego Maradona
Photographs: Ian Walton/Getty Images
Chiellini deems Suarez ban 'excessive'
Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini has said the ban FIFA handed down to Luis Suarez is 'excessive' and that he feels no anger towards the controversial Uruguay striker.
Suarez was given longest sanction imposed at a World Cup by soccer's governing body on Thursday, suspended from all football-related activity for four months and banned for nine international matches for biting Chiellini in their final Group D match in Natal on Tuesday.
Suarez will miss the first two months of Liverpool's Premier League and Champions League campaigns, and may not appear for his country in a non-friendly match again until 2016.
"Now inside me there's no feelings of joy, revenge or anger against Suarez for an incident that happened on the pitch and that's done," Juventus centre back Chiellini said in a statement on his website (giorgiochiellini.com).
"There only remain the anger and the disappointment about the match.
"At the moment my only thought is for Luis and his family, because they will face a very difficult period.
"I have always considered unequivocal the disciplinary interventions by the competent bodies, but at the same time I believe that the proposed formula is excessive.
"I sincerely hope that he will be allowed, at least, to stay close to his team mates during the games because such a ban is really alienating for a player."
Uruguay won the match 1-0 and advanced to meet Colombia in a round of 16 tie on Saturday, but Suarez, 27, will miss the contest and the rest of the tournament after his ban.
The defeat meant Italy missed out on the knock-out stage.
FIFA also fined Suarez 100,000 Swiss francs ($112,000) after 10 hours of deliberations by its Disciplinary Committee.
($1 = 0.8932 Swiss francs)
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Image: Italy's Giorgio Chiellini shows his shoulder, claiming he was bitten by Uruguay's Luis Suarez during their match on Tuesday
Photographs: Carlos Barria/Reuters
Argentina's Aguero set to miss Switzerland game
Argentina striker Sergio Aguero will miss the upcoming last 16 clash with Switzerland after suffering a muscle injury in his left leg and could be out of the World Cup should they progress.
Aguero's injury in the 3-2 victory over Nigeria on Wednesday is a major blow to the South Americans' campaign to capture a third World Cup, this time on the soil of their great rivals Brazil.
Team doctor Daniel Martinez told reporters the 26-year-old was undergoing magnetic resonance and other urgent treatments at the team's camp in Belo Horizonte.
"We have available all the resources to progress as quickly as possible," he said.
"He won't be ready for the Switzerland game, and from there we'll check his evolution day-by-day."
Other sources close to the team said Aguero would almost certainly also be out for further games assuming Argentina progress.
The Manchester City forward, part of Argentina's so-called "Fab Four" of strikers, was taken off during the first half of the match against Nigeria that gave them top spot in Group F.
Nicknamed "Kun" after a Japanese cartoon character, Aguero is a close friend of national captain Lionel Messi and is also the father of Diego Maradona's first grandson.
Argentina play Switzerland in Sao Paulo on Tuesday.
Fellow strikers Ezequiel Lavezzi or Rodrigo Palacio could take Aguero's place.
"We have forwards of the same style as Aguero and others, with a different style, like Lavezzi, who came in and handled himself well on the wings and helped us cover spaces," coach Alejandro Sabella said after the Nigeria game, where Lavezzi replaced Aguero.
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Image: Sergio Aguero of Argentina
Photographs: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Poker brand 888 cancels Suarez sponsorship deal after ban
Poker brand 888 has cancelled its sponsorship deal with Luis Suarez after the Uruguay striker was banned from all soccer-related activity for four months for biting an opponent during a World Cup match.
Suarez, one of the most talented but controversial players, lit up the English Premier League last season with club side Liverpool and became one of the online gambling company's brand ambassadors only last month.
"888poker signed Luis Suarez following a fantastic season for which his achievements were widely recognised," it said on Friday.
"Regrettably, following his actions during Uruguay's World Cup match against Italy on Tuesday, 888poker has decided to terminate its relationship with Luis Suarez with immediate effect," it said in a brief statement.
Suarez was hit with the longest ban ever imposed at a World Cup on Thursday by soccer's governing body FIFA.
He had clashed with Giorgio Chiellini in the final minutes of Uruguay's last Group D match against Italy, shortly before the South American champions scored to seal a 1-0 win and knock Italy out of the tournament.
The Italian defender pulled down his collar to show the mark on his shoulder to the referee, who took no action. Reuters photographs showed what FIFA's Disciplinary Committee accepted were bite marks.
Image: A woman takes a photo next to an advertisement featuring Uruguay's Luis Suarez, mocking the biting incident against opponent Giorgio Chiellini
Photographs: Mario Tama/Getty Images