Halfway through the match between Argentina and Nigeria it looked as if something had begun to take hold as the image of Diego Maradona seemingly asleep in his VIP box appeared on TV screens all over the world. In reality his appearance had raised questions from the moment he entered the stadium.
Memes of his demoniac look, arms crossed across his chest, had gone viral, as did the gif of him dancing with a woman in the crowd.
It looked like a man under the influence. Maradona’s well-documented history of substance abuse, both legal and illegal – an issue he has been openly discussing for decades – gave us a clue as to what was going on but he says he has been clean for years and told reporters afterwards he had “only” been drinking white wine.
Diego Maradona has overshadowed Argentina’s progress to the last 16 with his antics in Saint Petersburg in the win over Nigeria.
The icon appeared to be intoxicated and admitted to bingeing on white wine, while for a second time the former World Cup winner made an offensive gesture.
Beforehand it was a racist gesture towards South Korea supporters, this time he aimed a single-finger salute at fans, seemingly of Nigeria, below him after Marcos Rojo’s match winner.
All this and FIFA are paying for the privilege of the controversial figure to attend their games in Russia.
That privilege is costing £10,000 per day – and the rest: including travel, accommodation and expenses.
That is part of FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s legends concept, whereby great players are in attendance to witness the current generation and remind viewers of historic moments of the past.