DUBAI// Speculation over Diego Maradona’s future at Al Wasl were put to rest last night with the new chairman of the club insisting the Argentine legend will continue for the next season at the Zabeel Stadium.
The new board of the club met for the first time last night, appointing Dr Mohammed Ahmad bin Fahad the chairman of both the Al Wasl Club and Al Wasl Football Company after the two-hour meeting. Hassan Taleb Al Marri has been named as the chief executive of the Football Company.
Maradona’s future at the club was also discussed during the meeting after reports earlier in the day claimed he had been dismissed by the club.
Bin Fahad, however, dismissed those reports and said: “Maradona is the head coach of the Al Wasl team and he will continue for the next season. He will have complete authority over the programme for the next season. There is no change in his position.”
Tweets from Sky News Arabia and Sharjah Sports TV yesterday afternoon, citing club sources, had claimed the Argentine legend has been shown the door by the new management of Wasl.
The story was later denied on the official Twitter account of the club. “News about the sacking of Al Wasl coach Diego Maradona is incorrect. Must be noted,” the tweet said.
The speculations over Maradona’s future at the club arose following Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s interview on Dubai Sports TV, where the Al Wasl chairman described his coach’s first year in charge as “unsuccessful”.
The Dubai club finished the season without any silverware, failing to win even the GCC Club Championship despite a 3-1 win in the first leg of the final against Al Muharraq in Bahrain. They were eighth in the Pro League, 29 points behind the champions Al Ain, and failed to reach beyond the second round of the President’s Cup. In the Etisalat Cup, Maradona’s team were knocked out in the semis by eventual champions Al Ahli.
“The results of last season were well below our expectations after we failed to win any domestic title and finished eighth in the Pro League,” Sheikh Ahmed said in an interview with Dubai Sports TV. “We also lost the GCC title when it was in our grasps.
“Such results do not fit with the reputation of our club. Even in my dreams I did not expect them to finish eighth in the league. I had hoped they would at least finish among the top four. Our fans do not deserve this. I was really saddened to see them after the GCC final.”
Following the disappointing season, the board of directors of both the club and Al Wasl Football Company tendered their resignation on Thursday and Sheikh Ahmed appointed a new board, which met for the first time last night.
“I think Maradona was unsuccessful with Al Wasl and I do not know the reasons for it,” Sheikh Ahmed said. “The new administration will now determine the fate of Maradona for next season.”
The presence of Maradona at Wasl was great PR and marketing success for the club, but Sheikh Ahmed said those achievements mean little without on-field success.
“We do not want this marketing success without championships,” he said. “We want our marketing to be based on title. We want our team to be competing for tournaments next season. It is very important that Wasl get back on their feet.
“The goal of the new administration is to work on reforming the situation. I apologise to the fans because we failed to deliver what they deserve last season, but I hope the new administration will be able to bring back the smiles.”
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