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Brazilians follow drama of Maradona

Brazilians set aside their soccer rivalry with Argentina and anxiously followed the drama of Diego Maradona, hospitalized with heart problems.
PTI | By Associated Press, Rio De Janeiro
PUBLISHED ON APR 21, 2004 03:51 PM IST

Brazilians set aside their soccer rivalry with Argentina and anxiously followed the drama of Diego Maradona, hospitalized with heart problems.

"The greatest battle of Don Diego," read a headline on Tuesday in the Rio sporting daily Lance. "The world roots for Maradona," said O Estado de S. Paulo.

TV news reports carried regular updates on Maradona's condition and speculated whether his condition was caused by drug use, a chronic problem since his days as a star with Italy's Napoli.

Maradona was placed in intensive care on Sunday and reportedly was responding to treatment for heart and blood pressure problems.

It was the second time in recent years he has been hospitalized.

Maradona, who led Argentina to the 1986 World Cup title, symbolizes the rivalry between the continent's two soccer superpowers.

Brazilians view him with respect, envy and exasperation.

"Argentina stops and talks about only one thing: Maradona's health," said the Rio daily O Globo.

Argentine President Nestor Kirchner offered aid and Maradona's clinic "has become a temple," the paper said.

The reverence is for Maradona's prodigious talent, which Brazilians felt nearly rivaled the great Pele's. For Argentines, Maradona was superior — an attitude that infuriated Brazilians.

But Maradona also dominated a survey by FIFA, soccer's world governing body.

So many people voted for Maradona as the best ever that FIFA had to split the prize, declaring he and Pele winners in distinct categories.

One Brazilian who has no doubts about Maradona is Careca, who starred with the Argentine on Italy's Napoli from 1987 to '91. The two won the Italian scudetto (title) and the UEFA Cup, and were friends on and off the field.

"He was always attentive and caring with friends and, especially, with family," Careca said in an interview with O Estado de S. Paulo. "Aside from his extraordinary talent, which he had much more than I, neither was jealous of the other."

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