Al Wasl fires Maradona after one year as coach
DUBAI - The Associated Press
Al Wasl sacks Diego Maradona to put an end to the football legend’s ill-advised 13-month spell at the Dubai football club. AFP photo
Diego Maradona was fired as Al Wasl coach on July 11 after a disappointing season in which the former Argentina great failed to win a title for the Dubai club.
Maradona had one year left on his contract, but the club’s board of directors met earlier this week and issued a statement saying the former World Cup winner and his technical staff had been immediately relieved of their duties. Maradona, who was on vacation and not in Dubai, could not be reached for comment. A replacement for Maradona was not announced.
“Following a meeting to evaluate the leadership of coach Diego Maradona, it was decided to terminate his services and his technical staff,” the board said in its statement.
Expectations were great when Maradona arrived in Dubai in May 2011. He was popular with fans and helped put United Arab Emirates football on the map, but his team finished eighth in the 12-team league and failed to either qualify for next season’s Asian Champions League nor win any domestic titles.
The final straw appears to have been the team’s failure to win a second-tier competition called the GCC Champions League against Bahrain’s Al Muharraq 5-4 on penalties.
While Maradona didn’t deliver results on the pitch, his dramatic flair will definitely be missed in a league that has long been overshadowed by those in other parts of the Gulf and across Asia.
After his first victory at Al Wasl, the 1986 World Cup winner was forced to apologize after kicking the hand of fan who had repeatedly interfered as he was posing for a photo in front of a banner from his grandson, Benjamin.
There was more controversy after a particularly tough loss to Al Ain. Maradona accused Al Ain coach Cosmin Olaroiu of being rude and disrespectful for the way he celebrated a goal. The Romanian shot back that Maradona didn’t have a “clear mind.” Maradona was later fined by the league, but continued to take shots - even refusing to shake hands when they met again.
At another match, Maradona charged into the stands to confront Al Shabab fans who were taunting his partner, Veronica Ojeda, and the wives of several players. He had to be restrained by security staff and later described the fans as “cowards” for heckling the women.
“I was supposed to come here and meant to work and work hard and achieve something,” he said at a news conference earlier this year. “It’s not about Maradona coming here and rating him as being success or unsuccessful. My intention was not to come here and have an easy going time and spend it on the beach. I’m very happy to be here. It’s a good chance for me. I believe in living in the moment.”
LOW POINTS OF ‘COACH DIEGO’
Despite a peerless playing career, Maradona’s coaching spells have been plagued with disappointments.
• Took his first coaching job alongside former teammate Carlos Fren at Mandiyú of Corrientes in 1994. The club finished the Argentina Apertura league on 19th spot. A short and ill-advised spell at Racing Club followed in 1995.
• Beat the likes of Diego Simeone, Carlos Bianchi and Sergio Batista to be named the Argentina coach in 2008. After winning his first three matches in charge of the team, he oversaw a 6–1 defeat to Bolivia, equalling the team’s worst ever margin of defeat.
• Argentina risked missing the World Cup for the first time in 40 years, but the team won its last two matches to avoid the embarrassment.
• Giving Lionel Messi as a similar attacking midfield role that he starred as a player, Maradona started the tournament on a high note. With 10 goals in four games, Argentina looked on course to be a serious contender in the World Cup, but a 4-0 quarterfinal defeat against Germany saw the end of Diego’s term at the national team.
• Was fired from Al Wasl after 13 months at the helm.