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Maradona improving but still fighting for life

Doctors say the Argentine soccer star condition is still critical. He had been admitted to a private clinic on Sunday with breathing difficulties and a crisis of hypertension. He is still in intensive care. Argentineans pray for his life.

The condition of Argentina's soccer great Diego Armando Maradona is “improving”, said his doctor, but he is still in intensive care after being hospitalized on Sunday with breathing difficulties and a crisis of high blood pressure. Doctors also confirmed Maradona's hospitalization is not related with drugs abuse as it has been previously reported by some local TV stations.

“He is responding to treatment,'' said Alfredo Cahe, Maradona’s personal physician, to the crowd of local and foreign journalists that got together at the gates of the Suizo-Argentina clinic in the center of Buenos Aires. However a medical report issued at 2 pm local time said Maradona was still in critical situation, sedated and breathing with the help of an artificial respirator.

Maradona's blood pressure is “normalizing'' and his heart function is "acceptable'', the report said. Doctors said Maradona's early symptoms were high blood pressure followed by “insufficient heart function'' and breathing difficulties. The hospital is expected to comment again tomorrow around midday.
 
At the same time, hundreds of fans were chanting supportive songs and pasting posters at the walls of the clinic to express their solidarity with Argentina’s most admired idol. Television pictures showed hundreds of fans keeping vigil at the clinic, holding signs reading "God Help Diego'' and blocking traffic on Pueyrredon Avenue in front of the clinic.

Many fell into despair early in the morning when it became known that a priest appeared to administer the last rites. He wasn't allowed in and had to give the rites from the outside. A woman brought flowers to the clinic and people went angry because “Maradona is not dead”, they said. The woman had to go.

On Tuesday morning Buenos Aires was a one issue city. Everybody was discussing Maradona's health condition and avid for fresh news about the best-ever soccer player. For one day, people forgot about the day to day problems. Even the government has been left behind. Country's president Nestor Kirchner made an important announcement to fight crime surge in his first public appearance in ten days after being hospitalized with a stomach problem. No one paid attention.

Maradona, who led Argentina to the 1986 World Cup title and to second place in 1990, has struggled with cocaine addiction since retiring as a player in 1997 and has had heart problems in the past four years. Maradona was hospitalized and first diagnosed with a heart condition in January 2000 in Punta del Este, a seaside resort in Uruguay.

His supporters are so fanatical that some 20,000 people as far as Vietnam and Iceland have become members of the "Church of Maradona". He has also been honored with several songs about the ups and downs of his turbulent rags-to-riches life.

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