The Italian Almanac

Maradona Jr

Maradona Says Sorry

Diego Maradona has said sorry to the Italian-born son he publicly dismissed as a mistake. ''When I said those things in Argentina I didn't mean to offend anyone. If my words were taken as offensive it wasn't what I wanted,'' the Napoli and Argentina legend said in a letter read out in court here. Maradona, who spent the best years of his career in Naples, claimed his 2005 remarks on Argentine TV had been ''misinterpreted''.

The letter was read after Maradona settled a legal wrangle with his 22-year-old son, who is known as Diego Jr. He agreed to meet his son's demands, releasing years of unpaid child support and paying a further, undisclosed sum to meet the young man's needs until he turns 25. ''It's a way of showing him my affection and giving him something he can start putting in the bank right away,'' Maradona's statement concluded.

The younger Maradona said he was glad the court case was over but could not yet forgive his father. ''Of course I'm happy, I'd given up hope. But it's only something you'd expect from a person who has finally realised he made a mistake'. It doesn't mean I've forgiven him,'' he added, dismissing the suggestion that he would be getting on the first plane to Buenos Aires.

Diego Jr is the product of an extramarital fling with Neapolitan woman Cristiana Sinagra during Maradona's triumphant 1984-1991 term at Napoli. The star fought a string of paternity suits to avoid recognising the kid but was eventually foiled by DNA evidence in 1993. Last year, as the fresh legal battle reached its height, Diego Jr suggested his father was mentally ill because of years of drug abuse.

During a triumphant return to Naples in 2004, Maradona refused to watch his son play for a junior league side that was at the centre of a reality show on Italian television.