HAVANA: Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona, who has been undergoing treatment in Cuba for a cocaine addiction, was transferred from a mental health centre to an upscale health tourism resort in Havana, an Argentine diplomat said on Friday.
Raul Taleb, Argentina’s outgoing ambassador to Cuba, said he visited Maradona on Friday afternoon at La Pradera resort and the former soccer star appeared healthy and strong.
“I know when he’s doing well, and when he’s not doing well, and right now he is doing really well,” Taleb told journalists during a farewell gathering at his diplomatic residence. “He is going through one of his best moments.”
Maradona, 44, has been hospitalised repeatedly over the last four years in his battle with severe health problems brought on by his drug usage.
The soccer great, who was treated at Havana’s La Pradera in 2000, decided to return to Cuba last fall after a relapse confined him to a psychiatric hospital in his native Argentina and sparked unsuccessful attempts by his family to keep him there.
During this latest stretch, Maradona – who led Argentina to the 1986 World Cup title and 1990 final – had been secluded at a mental health centre in a quiet, palm-tree lined area of western Havana. After his arrival on Sept 20 he was not seen publicly until Dec 5, when he left for Buenos Aires to spend the holidays with his family.
During his last stay at La Pradera, Maradona’s movements were not restricted and he often invited people to his guest house. It was not clear how strict a treatment regimen he would undergo this time.
Taleb said Maradona was on an “accelerated rehabilitation course”, and indicated that Maradona’s family was aware of the transfer.
“They know him, and are aware that when he has this determination to get better ... he is capable of overcoming his problem,'' he said.
Taleb, who resigned from his post as ambassador, is scheduled to leave Cuba for Argentina today. He said he went to say goodbye to Maradona, and that the soccer great wrote him a farewell note.
Maradona, who retired from soccer in 1997, just returned to Havana from a quick trip to Greece. He is planning to travel to Argentina in the middle of February to receive treatment to fight his obesity, according to Taleb.
In recent interviews, Maradona has said he is recovering from his drug addiction. He has cited the need for greater privacy as a reason for seeking treatment in Cuba.
In 2000, FIFA chose Maradona and Pele as the greatest players in soccer history. – AP
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