Diego Maradona fighting for life after heart failure

Updated on Apr 21, 2004 12:57 PM IST

The 43-yr-old Argentine soccer legend, who has a history of drug abuse, is under intensive care in a Buenos Aires clinic.

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PTI | ByDaniel Merolla (AFP), Buenos Aires

Argentine football legend Diego Maradona, who has a history of drug abuse, was in intensive care in a local hospital early on Monday after suffering acute heart failure.

Dozens of his fans held a vigil in front of The Swiss-Argentine clinic, praying for their star.

The hospital said in a statement that the 43-year-old former captain of the Argentine national team was unable to breathe by himself.

His doctor, Alfredo Cahe, told reporters that Maradona's reaction over the next 24-48 hours would be crucial to his recovery chances.

Buenos Aires swirled with rumours about the cause of the illness, with the TN television channel saying Maradona had a drug overdose.

Maradona, who is considered one of the greatest footballers of all time, has been battling drug addiction for years. He was suspended while playing in the Italian championship in the 1990s after testing positive for cocaine.

The Buenos Aires clinic said Maradona was admitted after suffering "congestive heart failure" caused by high blood pressure.

It said Maradona "is receiving medication to strengthen the heart; and as he developed acute respiratory failure he was put on a ventilator and therefore is heavily sedated."

"The reaction to the medication has been favourable, and he is stabilised." But the statement said doctors gave only a "reserved" assessment of his condition.

Cahe told reporters outside the clinic "we will have to wait 24-to-48 hours to know the evolution."

Cahe refused to answer questions about whether Maradona had had a drug overdose.

Cahe accompanied Maradona when he was taken to the clinic.

The TN report quoted members of Maradona's "intimate circle" as saying the former footballer was rushed to hospital following an overdose.

Maradona's father, Diego, his ex-wife, Claudia Villafane, and their two children, Dalma and Gianina, had been at the hospital.

Carlos Bilardo, who was coach of the Argentine national football team when it won the 1986 Wold Cup in Mexico, visited the hospital in the evening but declined to make any statement.

And this heightened speculation about the condition of the former skipper of Argentina's 1986 World Cup-winning team.

"He wanted to have a few health check-ups," one of the former footballer's close relatives told reporters as rumours mounted that Maradona was in intensive care. The clinic released the statement as it became the subject of international attention.

Maradona's recent return to Argentina from Cuba on March 22 had prompted concern and speculation about his health because of the excess weight he has put on.

Despite concerns about his health, he was seen playing football on March 23 with students and personnel of La Plata university, a game in which he scored a goal from a penalty kick.

Maradona had earlier watched his former club Boca Juniors play league rivals Nuevo Chicago but left during the second half and was later admitted to the clinic.

Since January 2000, Maradona has spent a lot of time in Cuba where he has already made attempts to kick his alleged drug habit.

Maradona played 91 matches for Argentina and scored 34 goals, including his infamous "hand of God" goal against England when he fisted the ball into the net. His career began in 1977 and ended in 1994.

He has played for a host of famous clubs including Boca Juniors, Newells Old Boys and Napoli in Italy's Serie A. Maradona also played for Barcelona and Sevilla in Spain.

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