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Soccer legend Maradona in critical condition
Updated: 2004-04-20 09:06

Diego Maradona was in critical condition Monday, breathing with the help of a respirator but showing signs of improvement after heart and blood pressure problems.

Maradona fighting for life after heart failure April 18. [AP Photo]
The former Argentine soccer star was hospitalized in the intensive care unit Sunday, hours after watching his former team Boca Juniors play in the domestic league.

It was the second time in recent years that the 43-year-old soccer great, who led Argentina to the 1986 World Cup title in Mexico, has been hospitalized.

Dr. Alfredo Cahe, Maradona's personal physician, described Maradona's condition as "critical" but said early tests showed his heart improved overnight.

The medical team treating Maradona said his "progress has been satisfactory" and his blood pressure was stabilizing. Doctors said they expected to issue a new update on his condition on Tuesday.

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.

Cardiomyopathy is a disease in which the heart muscle becomes inflamed and doesn't function properly.

Maladona kisses his 14-year-old daughter on her birthday. [sina.com]
The clinic also said Maradona had a lung infection.

Cahe said the emergency hospitalization was not related to Maradona's past drug use. Maradona had been rehabilitating for cocaine abuse in Cuba.

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.

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!"

"I'm staying here until I found out that he's OK," said Ruben Quiroz, 22. "I'm really sad because he's the best that's ever played. I hope he comes out of this OK."

On Monday, 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!" and posted pictures of him from his playing days to the clinic's walls.

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 hospitalized 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 for drug rehab.

He returned to Argentina more than a week ago, saying he had personal business.

Last month, Maradona broke with his longtime personal manager, accusing him of mismanaging his finances.

In his 20-year career, Maradona won Italian and Argentine league titles and led Argentina to the World Cup final in 1990.

In 2000, FIFA chose Maradona as the game's best ever, along with Pele.

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