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Wed Apr 23 16:36:29 SAST 2014

Maradona to remain as Al Wasl coach next season

Michael Casey, Sapa-AP | 18 June, 2012 09:440 Comments
Al Wasl's head coach Diego Maradona of Argentina reacts during their Pro-League soccer match in Abu Dhabi in this September 15, 2011 file photo
Image by: Jumana El Heloueh / REUTERS

Al Wasl said Diego Maradona will remain as coach next season despite the loss in the GCC Champions League final that caused the entire board to resign and had raised doubts about the Argentine great’s future.

Wasl Club chairman Mohammad Ahmad bin Fahad dismissed reports that Maradona had resigned as a “mistake.” He said Maradona’s future had not been discussed at the board meeting Sunday.

“Maradona is the head coach of Al Wasl and has the complete authority for the program,” Bin Fahad said. “He will continue with us. There is no change in his position.” 

The Al Wasl board resigned on Thursday without giving an explanation. It was led by Marwan bin Bayat, who was instrumental in signing Maradona to a two-year deal in May. The resignation sparked reports in the local media on Sunday that Maradona has been sacked.

Maradona, currently on vacation in Argentina, endured a dismal season with Al Wasl with the club finishing eighth out of 12 teams.

He had hoped to salvage the season by winning the GCC final. Al Wasl won the first leg 3-1 at Bahrain’s Al Muharrah and fans packed Al Wasl stadium for the return leg expecting the club to win its first trophy of the season.

Team President Sheik Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum — a brother of the Dubai ruler — even turned up for the first time this season to join the expected celebration.

But the team lost the June 10 match on penalties in a contest marred by two Al Wasl players being sent off for head-butting opposing players.

Maradona said in the post-match news conference that he would return next season and was looking forward to planning the team’s future by making several new signings. He has not spoken to the media since the loss.

His departure would not come as a total surprise, especially in the United Arab Emirates pro league where foreign coaches rarely last a season.

Maradona has been a huge hit with Al Wasl fans and almost single-handedly put United Arab Emirates football on the map, but has yet to demonstrate he can coach successfully.

Al Wasl has often looked sluggish and struggled to score for most of the season. The final also showed that Maradona has little control over several of his ill-disciplined players, despite his iconic status as one of the greatest ever footballers.

Maradona captained Argentina to victory in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. He retired in 1997.

Maradona has also sparred repeatedly with management in recent months over what he says have been broken promises to provide him with quality players. He has threatened to quit several times unless the club provided him with more money to buy players. After his latest outburst in April, he backtracked and said he would work with the players the club gave him and fulfill the remainder of his contract.

Maradona joined Al Wasl following his firing as the Argentina national team coach. Under Maradona, Argentina’s results were mixed, including two of its worst losses — a 6-1 rout by Bolivia in World Cup qualifying and a 4-0 quarterfinal loss to Germany during the tournament in South Africa.

Before taking over as coach of Argentina in 2008, he coached Argentine first-division sides Deportivo Mandiyu in 1994 and Racing Club in 1995. In both cases, he left before his contract was up.

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Maradona to remain as Al Wasl coach next season

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