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By ESPN Staff

Excessive eating, drinking cause Maradona problems

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona was taken by ambulance to a health clinic Wednesday because of problems caused by excessive eating, drinking and cigar smoking, but his life is not in danger.

Maradona, 47, was taken to the Guemes health clinic in the Argentine capital and was followed a few minutes later by his two daughters, Dalma and Giannina, footage broadcast by local television stations showed.

Maradona's doctor, Alfredo Cahe, said early Thursday that the former soccer player "wasn't in any danger," but was about 8.8 pounds over his usual weight and had been taken to the private clinic "against his will; he didn't want to go."

"It wasn't an imbalance in his blood circulation or with his heart, but was a product of an incoherent regimen of excessive eating, drinking and smoking," Cahe told reporters in the doorway of the Guemes clinic.

He said Argentina's 1986 World Cup star would stay at the clinic a few days while tests are carried out.

Reports of the hospitalization, which was first characterized as an "imbalance," dominated Argentine television newscasts overnight, with coverage from outside the clinic. A cordon of uniformed police blocked the front entrance as some fans of the soccer great began arriving for a vigil.

"Maradona is hospitalized" read the top headline of leading daily Clarin in its online edition.

Maradona led Argentina to the 1986 World Cup championship and went on to become one of soccer's greatest players. He later battled cocaine addiction and obesity. In 2001, he was named by FIFA as one of the greatest players in soccer history, alongside Brazil's Pele.

In 2005, Maradona underwent a gastric bypass surgery in Colombia and soon after sported a thinner look.

Over the weekend, Argentine newspapers reported that Maradona had put on weight and was considering taking a "vacation" in Switzerland to help shed the extra pounds.

Cahe told sports daily Ole in its edition last Sunday that he was worried about the former soccer star's weight, comments that generated alarm in Argentina because of his history of drug- and weight-related heart problems.

Cahe was quoted as saying Maradona's numerous social commitments here were affecting his diet. Local reports said Maradona had been seen recently frequenting local restaurants and nightclubs.

Maradona was hospitalized in Uruguay in 2000 and again in 2004 in Buenos Aires amid concern about his health. Soon after his release from the hospital in 2004, Maradona was counseled for drug abuse in Argentina and in September of that year traveled to Cuba for treatment at Havana's Center for Mental Health.

Maradona is one of the country's most revered sports heroes.

Among his feats, he led led Argentina to the 1990 World Cup final and won Italian and Argentine league titles. But in 1991, Maradona failed a drug test and was banned for 15 months, and failed another drug test at the 1994 World Cup in the United States. He retired in 1997.