The Italian Almanac

Diego Maradona

Italian Television - October 10

Diego Maradona's surprising dance floor prowess will be sorely missed in coming weeks as one of Italy's hit television programmes is forced to continue without his fancy footwork. The Argentinian soccer legend has abandoned the Dancing With the Stars show after only four weeks, leaving a troupe of lesser stars to entertain audiences with their attempts at the tango and foxtrot.

Maradona, who had radical weight-loss surgery earlier this years, was ordered by his doctors to quit the show after the stress of the weekly flights to Rome - on top of hectic dance training - began to take their toll. "I'd got a point where I was pushing myself too hard," he told shocked TV viewers during a live link-up from Buenos Aires during last week's programme. "I lost 53 kilos after the operation. I argued with the doctors so they would let me come but they wouldn't," he continued. "I apologise to Italian TV viewers."

Dancing With the Stars involves celebrities being taught how to dance by professional partners. Every week the couples perform and one pair is eliminated after votes by a studio jury and the public. The show was doing well for state broadcaster RAI, which broadcast it on Saturday nights on its flagship channel. Over six million Italians watched the last programme and heard Maradona make his excuses.

Now that the stocky Argentinian has gone the show has lost by far its biggest star and it remains to be seen how this will affect viewing figures.