MOSCOW: World football federation FIFA has rejected an attack by its ‘ambassador’ Diego Maradona over the refereeing of United States official Mark Geiger in England’s second round World Cup victory over Colombia.
Maradona, whose generally boorish behaviour has been an embarrassment for FIFA president Gianni Infantino and his ‘legends programme’, described Geiger as having committed a “monumental robbery”.
He said: “It was a fatal mistake for a whole country. Here’s a referee who, if you Google him, shouldn’t be given a match of this magnitude, an American, what a coincidence.”
Geiger was heavily criticised from all sides – for contrasting reasons – for his weak handling of a match which ended in a 1-1 draw after which England won a penalty shootout 4-3.
Given the attacks on Geiger, FIFA had no option but to maintain him on the list of officials for the closing stages of the World Cup.
FIFA said: “At a time when FIFA is doing everything within its power to ensure [that] principles of fair play, integrity and respect are at the forefront of this World Cup and how the organisation is now run, it is extremely sorry to read such declarations from a player who has written the history of our game.
“FIFA strongly rebukes the criticism of the performance of the match officials, which it considers to have been positive in a tough and highly emotional match. Furthermore, it also considers the additional comments and insinuations made as being entirely inappropriate and completely unfounded.”
Dutchman Bjorn Kuipers will referee for England’s quarter-final against Sweden on Saturday in Samara. Kuipers was the referee for England’s opening defeat by Italy in Manaus in the 2014 finals. He also refereed England’s World -20 win last year.