Diego Maradona made headlines for an alleged racist act against the Asian race ahead of Argentina’s first World Cup match against Iceland.
Image: Diego Maradona
The football icon purportedly pulled his eyes during a contact with an Asian fan in Russia, knowing fully well that describing Asian eyes as “slanted” is offensive.
Maradona, 57, was meeting with football fans from South Korea ahead of his country’s opening match when he sighted a young Asian supporter wearing the beautiful White and Blue Stripes jersey. In a fleeting moment, the soccer idol reportedly pulled his eyes back in a dehumanizing racist manner.
The thoughtless behaviour from Maradona irked football fans around the world even though the former Argentina international player claims it was an erroneous judgement from critics.
Eye-pulling is widely considered a racist act by most Asians, particularly the Japanese, Koreans and Chinese, including countries in the middle east like India, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran, among others.
Chúk Odenigbo explains that describing Asian eyes with “slanted” would ordinarily mean no offence except that most racists have used it negatively as a way of dehumanizing their victims.
‘The word is comparable to “queer”, it’s a pretty neutral word for anyone to use until homophobes appropriated it, the it became inherently negative’ Odenigbo acknowledged.
Since his 1986 World Cup goal widely dubbed “the hand of God,” Maradona has thrived in controversies.
At the Iceland match, Maradona violated FIFA rules by smoking cigar at the stadium but has since tendered apologies for disregarding laws from the global football governing body.
The football legend took to social media on Sunday morning for a post which neither denied his alleged racist act nor confirmed same with apologies.
“I understand better than anyone that during the World Cup people are always looking for news at all costs, but let’s take it easy, today at the stadium, among the many demonstrations of affection of people, my attention was attracted by a group of people around a fan who was filming us, an Asian boy wearing an Argentina shirt,” Maradona wrote.
“I, from far away, tried to tell him how nice it seemed to me that even Asians would come for us,” he continued, “and that’s it, guys. Please.”
While FIFA is serious with its fight against racism, it is understandable that Maradona, who many fans of the round leather game see as a living legend, has always been a target at every World Cup. Every word and action from him attract interpretations which are, sometimes, misleading.
“I honestly did not know that no one can smoke in the stadiums,” Maradona said in his apologetic statement after the Iceland match. “I apologize to everyone and the organization.”