DUBAI // This was not the galvanising and uplifting effect Al Wasl were hoping for.
With their new coach Diego Maradona in the stands, Wasl went down to a 2-1 defeat to Sharjah, had a man sent off, and missed out on qualification for the Asian Championships - all in front of a disappointing crowd of 1,000 spectators.
Marwan bin Bayat, the chairman, however, remained positive.
"Al Wasl have witnessed great achievements since their establishment and now we are ready to add to that history with Maradona here," bin Bayat said. "This season is over and we are ready to turn the page.
"We have built great hopes and expectations on this new agreement and we are certain of our success, and we believe it will benefit all Emiratis.
"The benefits of this agreement will not be limited by our own borders, but the fruits of this will be tasted by the other clubs of the UAE."
On the evidence of last night's performance, Maradona might suggest more changes than he originally proposed to the side when he discusses transfers with the Wasl management.
Edson Puch, the Chile international, and Mubarak Hassan, the defender from Al Fujairah, are already on their way out of the club but more reinforcements are surely needed.
"We will be having meetings with Maradona during the coming days to discuss all the aspects of the team," bin Bayat said. "We have a great understanding on this subject and we trust Maradona to make the best decisions for the club.
"Our goal is clear, we want to win the championship and we will put every tool at Maradona's disposal to do that."
Sitting near Maradona in the stands was Fahad Khamis, one of the Wasl board members.
He was disappointed to see all the empty seats around the stadium.
"We are working hard to meet the aspirations of our fans," Khamis said.
"We hope they will also respond with the same enthusiasm and will fill the stands from next season.
"With the arrival of Maradona, the responsibility on us has increased - the officials, players, fans, everybody.
"With the world watching us, we will have to show greater discipline and professionalism. We want to send a positive image of UAE football to the world."
The global attention that Maradona's presence will generate could be a boon for Emirati players hoping to grab the attention of scouts for European clubs, according to Ismail Rashid, a former Wasl player.
"Maradona is a huge name," Rashid said.
"His presence here will bring a lot of attention to the league from the world media.
"It will also bring a lot of agents and scouts, and that will provide an opportunity for Emirati players to grab their attention.
"So I believe Al Wasl have done a great service to UAE football by getting Maradona to the country and you will see a lot of benefits in the near future.
"Many people are talking about his coaching abilities, but not being able to win the World Cup with Argentina does not mean he is not a good coach, or that he will not be successful with Al Wasl.
"Maradona is very capable of success as a coach and I am sure he will be determined to prove that to his detractors."
Wasl were one goal down when Maradona arrived last night.
Nawaf Mubarak gave the visitors a 15th-minute lead, beating the Wasl keeper with a curling free-kick. A minute later Alexandre Oliveira, playing his final game for Wasl after spending six seasons with the club, bulged the net, but his strike was ruled out for offside.
Ahmed Darwish eventually equalised for the home side in the 42nd minute, heading home a Francisco Yeste free-kick.
Marcelinho, however, put Sharjah back in the lead in the 63rd minute. Wasl were unable to get back on level terms and eventually finished the game with 10 men as Darwish was sent off for a second booking with three minutes remaining on the clock.
More Maradona reaction, s4