Diego Maradona Lambasts ‘Ugly’ FIFA in Telesur Show Debut

FIFA’s power is “ugly and people need to know it,” said Diego Maradona, the Argentine striker chosen one of soccer’s two best players last century.

“FIFA today is a multinational that is eating up the ball,” Maradona said of the governing body in the first edition of the Telesur television show he anchors with Uruguayan journalist Victor Hugo Morales. “Countries can’t do anything against them. If FIFA decides where soft drinks must be sold, that’s where it has to be sold.”

FIFA is under pressure as sponsors including Sony Corp. and Adidas AG expressed concern over corruption allegations linked to the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, a desert nation smaller than the U.S. state of Connecticut. FIFA President Sepp Blatter has been told by European soccer leaders not to run for a fifth term because of the institution’s reputation.

Maradona, who won the World Cup as captain of Argentina in 1986 and was voted together with Pele the two best players of the 20th century, has had a stormy relationship with FIFA for years. In the mid-90s, after serving a playing ban for doping, Maradona tried to form a global players’ union. He now lives in Dubai and is in Rio covering the World Cup for Caracas-based Telesur.

FIFA didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail seeking comment on Maradona’s remarks.

$11 Billion

Brazil’s preparation for the World Cup has been marred by delays, budget increases and protests as authorities delivered less than half the planned projects despite an $11 billion budget. The tournament kicks off tomorrow when Brazil meets Croatia at the Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo, a city where strikes by subway workers paralyzed roads in recent days.

Maradona, 53, said the mood in Brazil ahead of the event remains subdued.

“Things should have been done in a different way,” he said. “With things done in a different way, we would be with our head in the games, but we are instead talking about strikes.”

Government-controlled Telesur was an initiative of deceased Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Maradona, who was friends with Chavez, was named a World Cup commentator for the network in February.

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