Maradona ready for cable TV, Internet channel

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MEXICO CITY (AP) — Millions adored or loathed Diego Maradona as a player. Now comes a new love-hate possibility as one of the world’s greatest soccer players launches his own cable TV and Internet channel.

Maradona’s latest venture kicked off Thursday in Mexico City, although programming isn’t scheduled to begin until just before the start of the World Cup in South Africa.

“It will be what people want to know outside sports, not the games themselves but what happens behind the games and after the games,” said Rodolfo Cavalcanti, the president of On&Off Holding, a digital advertising and public relations agency with a branch in Mexico City.

Cavalcanti said he is one of the partners with Maradona in the venture but declined to say who else is involved.

Maradona, who will coach Argentina at the World Cup, is no stranger to TV.

His show on Canal 13 in Argentina, “La Noche del 10 (The Night of the No. 10),” was a ratings success in 2005, featuring interviews with Pele, Mike Tyson, Cuba’s Fidel Castro and English singer Robbie Williams.

It’s that kind of star power that promoters hope Maradona brings to the new channel.

Cavalcanti said programming plans are still vague, but the focus would be on sports with an emphasis on fashion, entertainment and celebrity. The channel will carry Maradona’s image and be called 10 ETV, but Maradona won’t appear very often. The channel’s name comes for Maradona’s famous number, with the “E” standing for entertainment.

“Maradona will have very few shows, not many of his own,” Cavalcanti said.

That’s certain to be the case in June, and into early July, if Argentina plays well in the World Cup. Argentina was placed in Group B with South Korea, Nigeria and Greece.

Maradona took over as Argentina’s national coach just over a year ago, drawing both praise and criticism. Despite some of the world’s top players — including Barcelona’s Lionel Messi — Argentina struggled to qualify for the World Cup.

In November, Maradona was handed a two-month ban and fined $25,000 by FIFA for an expletive-filled rant after his team qualified for the World Cup.

Cavalcanti said the channel’s revenue would come through cable and Internet subscriptions, and through advertising and sponsorship. He said the launch took place in Mexico to make clear the venture is not seen as an Argentina-based channel.

“This is a channel for the world, not just Argentina,” Cavalcanti said.