Is Diego Maradona's soccer career over?
"I've had enough. I'm tired of struggling. I'm retiring for good," the Argentine star, faced with a minimum six-month and maximum two-year international suspension for cocaine use, was quoted as saying in today's editions of the Milan newspaper Corriere della Sera.Maradona, the 30-year-old captain of Napoli of the Italian major league and the Argentine national team, gave a brief interview Tuesday during a flight from Rome to Buenos Aires.
"Now I want to enjoy life, I want to enjoy my daughters," Maradona was quoted as saying.
Maradona left Italy as the disciplinary commission of the Italian League prepared to rule on his case. Italian League officials found traces of cocaine in his urine after Napoli's game against Bari on March 17.
Maradona and his business manager Marco Franchi have hinted - without offering proof - that the incident somehow is motivated by Argentina's victory over Italy in last year's World Cup semifinal, and Maradona's desire to break his contract with Napoli.
"I'm certain that the clouds will be dispelled soon," Maradona said in a statement distributed in Rome on Tuesday by the Italian news agency ANSA. "I sincerely hope to return to soccer with a clean image which in vain someone is trying to alter."
After eluding reporters and photographers at Ezeiza international airport, Maradona told them tersely at his parents' house, "Enough was said on this issue in Italy. I have nothing to add."
There, he celebrated his daughter Dalma's fourth birthday. A TV camera caught him booting a tennis ball soccer-style against a wall and bouncing it off his head.
The Italian League's 11-lawyer disciplinary commission is set to rule Saturday on the length of Maradona's suspension. The suspension automatically will be extended worldwide by the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), soccer's governing body.
"We don't think we have to go into action on a big scale because of this case," FIFA general secretary Joseph Blatter said in Zurich, Switzerland. "The reasons behind it probably have little to do with sports. If everything one reads is confirmed, it is a somewhat tragic case for him personally - and as a role model in soccer. But he hasn't been that for a while, because of his general behavior."