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Maradona fighting for his life

BUENOS AIRES, APRIL 19. Diego Maradona remained in intensive care on Monday after suffering from heart and blood pressure problems that forced his weekend hospitalisation.

Maradona, who led Argentina to the 1986 World Cup title in Mexico, was taken to the hospital on Sunday after watching former team Boca Juniors play. It was the second time in recent years that the 43-year-old soccer great has been hospitalised.

The Suizo-Argentina private clinic said Maradona appeared to be suffering from the heart-related condition known as cardiomyopathy, additional blood pressure problems, and was being assisted with a breathing tube.

``The prognosis at this point is reserved,'' the statement said, adding that Maradona was sedated. Authorities issued no update overnight and said any further information would be released later.

Cardiomyopathy is a serious disease in which the heart muscle becomes inflamed and doesn't function properly, according to the American Heart Association.

Alfredo Cahe, Maradona's personal physician, said the emergency hospitalisation ``has nothing to do with his addictions.'' The Argentine had been undergoing drug rehabilitation for cocaine abuse in Cuba. But Cahe would not comment on what prompted Maradona to enter the hospital on Sunday.

Dozens of Maradona fans, some carrying pictures of the soccer star, crowded outside the clinic in downtown Buenos Aires. One man held a sign that read: ``God bless you, Maradona!''

On Monday, several police officers cordoned off the entrance to the hospital and held back the crowd along a busy boulevard in downtown Buenos Aires where fans put up signs reading ``Diego, today and forever!''

Maradona, who rose to stardom from humble beginnings and is widely considered one of the best soccer players who ever graced the sport, is revered by many in Argentina.

Newspapers ran front-page headlines on Monday. The prominent daily La Nacion read, ``Maradona hospitalised: severe cardiac crisis,'' and in Diario Popular, ``Diego, fight for your life!''

Maradona, who looked pale and overweight in television footage on Sunday, was joined at the hospital by his father, his former wife and two daughters. He was checked in on Sunday after watching league leader Boca Juniors beat Nueva Chicago 2-0 at ``La Bombonera'' stadium.

Maradona has had drug and medical problems in the past. He was suspended from the Italian league in 1991 for 15 months following a positive test for cocaine. FIFA suspended him in 1994 for 15 months because of a positive test at the World Cup finals in the United States. He eventually retired from professional soccer in 1997.

In January 2000, Maradona was hospitalised while vacationing in the Uruguayan resort city of Punta del Este. At that time, he was diagnosed with a severe heart condition and months later moved to Cuba to undergo drug rehabilitation.

He arrived in Argentina more than a week ago, saying he had returned to Buenos Aires for personal business. Last month, Maradona broke with his long-time personal manager, accusing him of mismanaging his finances.

In his 20-year career, Maradona won Italian and Argentine league titles, and also led Argentina to the World Cup final in 1990. In 2000, FIFA chose Maradona as the game's best ever, alongside Pele. — AP

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