MOSCOW -- After calling Colombia's World Cup loss to England a "monumental theft" and being rebuked by FIFA, Diego Maradona has apologised via social media for his criticism of American referee Mark Geiger's handling of the round-of-16 game.
It was the third controversy to involve Argentina great Maradona at the World Cup, which he has mostly attended as a FIFA ambassador.
"I was overcome with the emotion of being a fan of Colombia the other day and I said a few things. I admit that a few of them were unacceptable," Maradona wrote on his Instagram account on Thursday.
"I apologise to FIFA and to its president. Even though I may frequently have differences of opinion over certain refereeing decisions, I have the utmost respect for the work that the referees and their institution do. It is certainly not easy."
Maradona had been photographed before Tuesday's game wearing a Colombia shirt and, after England had advanced to the quarterfinals on penalties, told Venezuelan broadcaster Telesur the outcome was a "monumental theft."
FIFA said on Wednesday that Maradona's "insinuations" were "entirely inappropriate and completely unfounded."
"FIFA is extremely sorry to read such declarations from a player who has written the history of our game," world football's governing body said in a statement.
World Cup 2018 must-reads
- Make your daily ESPN FC Match Predictor picks!
- World Cup fixtures, results and coverage
- All 32 World Cup teams' tournaments in three words
- Godin shows why he's football's best defender
- Jesus should start for Brazil despite Firmino claims
- Who is the best World Cup penalty shootout keeper left?
The official awarded a penalty to England after Carlos Sanchez was adjudged to have brought down Harry Kane, although Colombia levelled through Yerry Mina's stoppage-time header.
"The penalty was not a penalty -- it was a foul by Kane," Maradona told Telesur. "Why didn't he use VAR?
"I'm reeling because when I spoke to [FIFA president Gianni] Infantino the first time, everything had changed at FIFA: the thieves had left, the fixes, everything.
"And today I saw a monumental robbery on the pitch. I apologise to the Colombian people, but the players are not to blame as we don't choose the referees.
"The referees are chosen by [Pierluigi] Collina, who was appointed by Infantino to change the new FIFA from thieves and fixers, and today we saw the opposite -- an old and fixed FIFA."
Maradona, who captained Argentina to victory at the 1986 World Cup, said he was surprised Geiger had been chosen for the match.
Earlier in the tournament, Maradona had apologised for making an offensive gesture towards South Korean fans, and was filmed aggressively raising his middle fingers after Argentina scored a late winning goal against Nigeria.
The Associated Press and ESPN FC Spain correspondent Adriana Garcia contributed to this report.