Argentinian football legend, Diego Maradona, has affirmed that Colombia were victims of a ‘monumental theft’ in an extraordinary rant after their round of 16 defeat to England at the FIFA World Cup.
England won 4-3 on penalties for their first ever shootout victory at a World Cup after a tight contest at Moscow’s Spartak Stadium finished 1-1 after extra time.
Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ goal that helped knock England out of the 1986 World Cup is the most famous act of cheating in tournament history, but the 57-year-old believes that American referee Mark Geiger favoured England against Colombia and accused star English striker Harry Kane of diving for the penalty that gave the Three Lions the lead.
“I saw a monumental theft. I apologise to all the Colombian people, but they must know the players are not to blame,” Maradona told Venezuela-based TV channel Telesur.
Maradona was attending the match as a ‘FIFA legend’ despite his role as an ambassador earlier coming under scrutiny at the World Cup in Russia because of his antics during Argentina’s games at the tournament.
“It is the man who decides who the referee is who is to blame,” he said of Pierluigi Collina, the chairman of FIFA’s referees committee.
“A man like that (Geiger) should not be put in charge of a game of that magnitude. With all due respect, Pierluigi Collina, as the man who designates the referees, he is very bad. He must apologise to the Colombian people.
“I told (FIFA president) Gianni Infantino that, if I worked for FIFA, I would change everything. It has to be transparent. That’s why I didn’t go there.
“The referee will know a lot about baseball, but he has no idea about football. The Colombian players asked for VAR (Video Assistant Referee intervention) and he did not give it to them.”
“Twice, the English threw themselves to the ground and he did not admonish them. This was theft.”
There were two incidents when English players Jordan Henderson and Harry Maguire went down easily in the penalty area but Maradona was really irate about the award of England’s penalty in the second half.
Kane was clumsily bundled to the ground by Colombian midfielder Carlos Sanchez and the England skipper scored from the spot to give the Three Lions a 1-0 lead.
“The penalty was not a foul. In fact, it was Kane’s fault,” Maradona went on.
“The referee is looking somewhere else and when he turns his head, Kane is on the floor.
“Kane used his arm to hook Sanchez and then threw himself down. I repeat, why didn’t the referee ask for the VAR? Colombia died standing. That’s why I applaud them.”
Maradona’s country was knocked out in the round of 16 after losing 4-3 to France, while England advanced to the quarter-finals and face Sweden on Saturday.