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A victory by his Al Wasl side over defending league champion Al Jazira would surely get Diego Maradona applauding.
A victory by his Al Wasl side over defending league champion Al Jazira would surely get Diego Maradona applauding.

Maradona's perfect gift

Diego Maradona celebrated his 51st birthday on Sunday, but he will be waiting till Wednesday for the perfect gift when Al Wasl meet defending champions Al Jazira at home in the Pro League.

DUBAI // Diego Maradona celebrated his 51st birthday on Sunday, but he will be waiting till Wednesday for the perfect gift when Al Wasl meet defending champions Al Jazira at home in the Pro League.

Maradona started his reign at Wasl with a 4-3 defeat at Jazira in the Etisalat Cup and he has been waiting for this match since, and he does not want to end up on the losing side once again.

"The best [birthday] gift so far has been the presence of my grandson Benjamin here in Dubai and having the chance to spend some time with him," Maradona said last night. "But of course, a win over Jazira will not just be a gift for me alone, but it will be a gift for everyone here at the club.

"It will definitely motivate the players for the matches ahead. There is a long journey in front of us and the important thing is to keep getting better and better as the league progresses."

The game is certain to be one of the most exciting of the season and many have billed it as an early championship decider, but Maradona did not agree with that.

"It is too early to be talking about the championship," he said. "Jazira are a strong team, very well organised ... so this will definitely be a big test for us, a big challenge.

"But of course, if we manage to win, it will be a great motivation and a big boost for us to continue and challenge for the title.

"We are definitely ready for the match against Jazira. We have been working hard since the last game and we still have one more day to prepare. We are very excited about this game and absolutely ready to give off our best."

Maradona also revealed that Edson Puch, who went missing before the Ajman match last week, will not be in the starting XI.

"It was a wrong decision by him not to be present at the training before a match," the Argentine said. "He definitely adds value to the team, but unfortunately at this moment he is not physically ready to play 90 minutes.

"Hopefully, he will be ready soon, but he is a terrific sub though. He has always been effective coming in as a sub in every match.

"I have sat with him and discussed the issue. I am against penalising any players, so Puch will be there on the bench for the match. When Puch is ready, when he is 100 per cent, he can create problems for any team. He is a very skilled player and I believe he will be a very a valuable player for Wasl in the future."

Maradona also appealed to the Wasl fans to come to the stadium and support the team; he also had a plea for the referees.

"Yes, we have seen some bad calls, some unfair calls," he said. "In the last match against Jazira, for instance, Ricardo Oliveira's goal was off-side. There were doubts even about the penalty they got.

"In our last match against Ajman, we saw some rough tackles against our players, but the referee didn't seem to notice it, which was surprising.

"So I request the referees to be fair so that we can see a good match. To have a fair competition, we have to be very careful about the referees decisions."

 

arizvi@thenational.ae

 

@ For more on PRO LEAGUE 2011/12, visit thenational.ae/topics

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