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Friday, 7 June, 2002, 15:46 GMT 16:46 UK
Path cleared for Maradona
Diego Maradona will be allowed to watch the World Cup in Japan after all
Maradona: Much maligned for using drugs

Argentina legend Diego Maradona will be allowed entry into Japan after all.

The former Argentina skipper, initially barred from Japan because of his history of drug abuse, was granted permission on the same day that his country slumped to a 1-0 loss to old foes England.

Justice Minister Mayumi Moriyama approved his entry after considering the Maradona's iconic status in world football.

Open Quote
My conscience is clear because I did not do anything wrong
Close Quote
Diego Maradona

The 41-year-old, who led Argentina to World Cup glory in 1986, was expected to arrive in Japan on Monday, according to sources in the Japanese government.

Approval came after the Argentine government submitted an official request to the Japanese embassy in Buenos Aires requesting that Maradona be allowed entry as the country's tourism and sports envoy.

Earlier in the week, the revered striker attacked the Japanese authorities who dashed his hopes of attending the World Cup.

"I did not kill anybody and I respect Japanese laws," he told US cable TV station Fox Sports.

"I did not throw any nuclear bombs at them. If they want to safeguard their country, the Japanese would not have allowed any of the United States players in."

Maradona, who was sent home from World Cup 94 after failing a drugs test, had a long wait before finally being notified that his visa had been turned down.

"I requested the visa six months ago but I was refused and that is extremely cruel," he said.

"However, my conscience is clear because I did not do anything wrong."

Argentina's final Group F game takes place in Miyagi against Sweden. It is a game the South American's must win if they are to advance to the knockout stages.


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