Maradona criticised for cursing pope

A television interview in which former Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona twice called the Pope a "son of a whore" unleashed a storm of criticism here today.

A television interview in which former Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona twice called the Pope a "son of a whore" unleashed a storm of criticism here today.

Most of the anger was levelled at the Argentinian station that aired the interview, Canal 9.

However, Maradona, infamous for numerous other scandals including a highly publicised battle with cocaine addiction, also came in for his fair share.

A spokesman for the archbishop of Buenos Aires chastised Maradona for wounding the "affection of the Argentinian people for the holy father."

"The church painfully recognises the terrible effects that drugs can have on a person," Guillermo Marco was quoted as saying in today's Clarin newspaper.

Maradona gave the interview in Cuba, where he has undergone drug treatment since January.

Maradona mumbled, looked bloated and drank whiskey during the broadcast in which he cursed Pope John Paul II twice.

The former soccer star shocked listeners when he described an audience he once had with the Pope.

During a Vatican visit, Maradona said, the Pope gave his wife and mother rosaries, then presented Maradona with a "very special" rosary.

Because Maradona could see no difference between his rosary and the other two, he asked the pontiff for an explanation, the soccer star said.

"He wanted to kill me, that son of a whore," Maradona told the interviewer.

"Then he said that it had been blessed."