Argentine soccer hero Diego Maradona was taken by ambulance to a Buenos Aires clinic late on Wednesday after suffering an unspecified “imbalance” in his health, the clinic said in a statement.
Maradona (47) was taken to the Guemes Health Clinic in the Argentine capital and was followed few minutes later by his two daughters, Dalma and Giannina, footage broadcast by local television stations showed.
Argentina’s 1986 World Cup hero “has entered the sanatorium for medical studies following an imbalance he suffered today [Wednesday]”, the clinic said in a statement The clinic did not specify what the “imbalance” was but said it “was not related to an addiction to dangerous drugs”.
The clinic said another update would be released on Thursday.
Reports of the hospitalisation dominated Argentine television newscasts overnight as anchors broadcast live from outside the clinic and a cordon of uniformed police blocked the front entrance as some fans of the soccer great began arriving for a vigil.
“Maradona is hospitalised” read the top headline of leading daily Clarin in its online edition.
Maradona led Argentina to the 1986 World Cup championship and went on to become one of soccer’s greatest players. He later battled cocaine addiction and obesity. In 2001, he was named by Fifa as one of the greatest players in soccer history, alongside Brazil’s Pele.
In 2005, Maradona underwent a gastric bypass surgery in Colombia and soon after sported a thinner look.
Over the weekend, Argentine newspapers reported that Maradona had put on weight and was considering taking a “vacation” in Switzerland to help shed the extra kilos.
Maradona’s doctor, Alfredo Cahe, told sports daily Ole in its edition last Sunday that he was worried about the former soccer star’s weight, comments that generated alarm in Argentina because of his history of drug- and weight-related heart problems.
But late on Wednesday, Cahe had no comment as he was shown leaving a back exit of the hospital. He refused to answer reporters’ questions as he departed.
Maradona was hospitalised in Uruguay in 2000 and again in 2004 in Buenos Aires amid concern about his health. Soon after his release from the hospital in 2004, Maradona was counselled for drug abuse in Argentina and in September of that year travelled to Cuba for treatment at Havana’s Centre for Mental Health.
Maradona is one of the country’s most revered sports heroes.
Among his feats, he led Argentina to the 1990 World Cup final and won Italian and Argentine league titles. But in 1991, Maradona failed a drug test and was banned for 15 months, and failed another drug test at the 1994 World Cup in the United States. He retired in 1997.
In 2005, a healthier Maradona started a career as host of his own immensely popular television programme called La Noche del 10 or “The Night of 10”—a reference to his famed number 10 jersey.
The programme became an instant hit during its season-long run as he sparred playfully on one show with boxer Mike Tyson and also had an interview in Cuba with President Fidel Castro, whom he befriended while in Cuba.
On one show, Maradona even acknowledged that he intentionally struck the ball with his hand in the famous “Hand of God” goal against England in the 1986 World Cup quarterfinals—calling that trick just “a bit of mischief.”
The referee allowed the goal to stand and despite protests by the English team that Maradona appeared to punch the ball into the net, Argentina won 2-1 and went on to win the championship.
That 1986 quarterfinal match against England also included what Fifa declared the greatest goal in World Cup competition—one in which Maradona dribbled half the length of the field, slaloming through nine opponents to score.—Sapa-AP