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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Argentines Mourn Fate of Sullied Star Maradona

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- Argentines were saddened by the suspension of Diego Maradona, though most realized the career of the 1986 World Cup hero was over before FIFA announced its decision.

"I had prepared myself like never before for the World Cup," Maradona told an Argentine television station after Wednesday's decision. "I'm relaxed with my family. The FIFA has no family."

"I was already going to rest and not play anymore," Maradona said.

President Carlos Menem called FIFA's decision to suspend Maradona for 15 months "a kind of persecution."

"It seems too much to me," Menem told a local radio station.

"I'm very angry and disappointed," Maradona's lawyer, Daniel Balotnicoff, said in Zurich, where the decision was announced.

"Today is one of the saddest days in the history of Argentine soccer," said Carlos Asnaghi, a journalist with television's Channel 11. "They demolished an idol who had given joy to generations."

Maradona, who was suspended for 15 months in 1991, received another blow to his troubled career when FIFA banned him for another 15 months for testing positive for the stimulant ephedrine at the World Cup in June.

At 33, overweight and with ailing knees, Maradona has repeatedly threatened to retire. He again repeated his retirement speech after being banned from the World Cup.

Wednesday's ban -- which cannot be appealed and could have been for life -- was imposed by FIFA's disciplinary committee headed by Mexico's Guillermo Canedo. It is retroactive to June 30, when FIFA initially banned Maradona, and will expire Sept. 29, 1995.

"It was a harsh measure," said Eduardo Carpio, a noted soccer reporter. "It fills all Argentines with pain and disappointment." Many said they believe Maradona was singled out because of his high profile and frequent run-ins with international soccer authorities.

"If another player, say an unknown player on an unimportant team, took a much more powerful drug, he wouldn't have been suspended," said Diego de la Fuente, 25, a postal worker.