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Maradona fights to save job

12 July 2012, 13:59

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 Buenos Aires - Diego Maradona said he wants to hold talks with Al Wasl to try and save his job, one day after being fired as coach by the Dubai club.

The club said the former Argentina great was being "relieved" of his duties on Tuesday because it wanted to move in a new direction.

In a letter to the club published on Wednesday on his website, Maradona said he and the club had been talking about possible player signings before he was fired. He said if budget restrictions were an issue, then he wanted to talk about it soon with club officials in the hope of reversing the decision.

"If it's impossible for the club to buy players because of budget reasons, there will always be the chance to talk about it with club's board of directors and look for solutions," Maradona wrote. "I hope to have a meeting soon to deal with all these matters. I am completely sure they will be disposed to reach a good agreement."

Maradona said that in recent days "we were speaking and trying to reach an agreement over buying players that are required to be able to achieve championships with the best results."

The former Argentina great was fired after one season in charge, having signed a two-year deal in May 2011. The team finished a disappointing eighth in the 12-team league and didn't win any trophies. The season ended with Al Wasl blowing a 3-1 first-leg lead in the GCC Club Championship and losing to Bahrain's Al Muharraq on penalties.

The club's board of directors resigned days after the June defeat, leaving Maradona vulnerable. The new board insisted he would remain for another year but then changed its mind after "a comprehensive study of all the technical aspects" of his tenure.

"We cannot deny that Diego Maradona is the best football player in the world and you cannot deny that he is a qualified coach," said Mohammed bin Dakhan, the vice president of the football club. "But we are looking forward to someone who will take us forward and win championships again for Al Wasl."

Bin Dakhan said the club was looking at four or five possible candidates, including former Qatar and Senegal national coach Bruno Metsu. The Frenchman was in the stands to watch Al Wasl lose the GCC title. An announcement on a new coach is expected in the next week.

"On a personal basis, we are not happy to terminate the contract. We are again saying we are working for the sake of Al Wasl," bin Dakhan said.

In a twist that seemed to offer an opening, the club has invited Maradona to attend a "farewell ceremony" at a date to be announced to show "the unique and strong relationship between them."

The decision to fire Maradona was greeted with anger by some of the club's supporters, about a dozen of whom came out to the news conference to express their support for the 1986 World Cup winner and argue that he should have been given more time to turn around the club.

"Some of us are sad and some are against this decision because this was the wrong time," said Amas Tayeb, a supporter standing near a poster showing Maradona at an Al Wasl news conference. "He should have been given one more year."

Yousuf al-Sarkal, the president of the UAE Football Association, also told The Associated Press he was "disappointed" to hear that Al Wasl had fired Maradona. He said Maradona should have given more time, adding that club's failure to win any trophies cannot be solely blamed on Maradona but was the responsibility of "the coach, players and management."

Al-Sarkal was quick to say the decision to fire Maradona was an internal matter for the club. But he said there was no doubt that the Argentine had a significant impact during his year in Dubai.

"I'm disappointed," he said of the firing. "From my traveling all around the world, people talk about our league because of Maradona. They know the name of the club, the existence of the league because of Maradona. ... Of course to have an icon like Maradona in our league, it was bringing a lot of media attention to the UAE as a country and UAE football."

But al-Sarkal acknowledged that Maradona often hurt himself with his antics off the pitch.

After his first victory at Al Wasl, Maradona was forced to apologize after kicking the hand of fan. Another time, he was accused by a coach of being disrespectful for the way he celebrated a goal.

The bearded and diamond stud-wearing Maradona once 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.

"We know during the season there were incidents where he was involved. There were incidents involving spectators where he was in the picture and that is not the role of a coach," al-Sarkal said, pointing to the Al Shabab clash. "It was not a crime scene. It was misunderstanding. Just imagine if something happened to Maradona and how that would give a negative picture for the league, for our football."

Maradona starred on Argentina's 1986 World Cup-winning team. He joined Al Wasl following his firing as the national coach of Argentina, where he had mixed results. Before becoming coach of his home country in 2008, he coached Argentine first-division clubs Deportivo Mandiyu in 1994 and Racing Club in 1995.

- AP


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