x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Make Maradona more accessible

Wasl must make Maradona available to get value from him.

Hardly a website in the world missed the announcement: Diego Maradona to coach Al Wasl on a two-year contract.

The news made headlines in the China Daily, the Daily Telegraph, The Scotsman, the Chicago Tribune, and the grand slam of "Times" newspapers: the London, the New York, the Los Angeles, the Hindustan and the Straits, et al.

If Wasl officials were looking for quick and universal exposure, announcing the hiring of the Argentine certainly accomplished that.

What is fascinating, after trolling through the echo chamber that is the world wide web: Wasl's international buzz was dependent on a handful of wire services, such as the Associated Press and Reuters.

For analysis, even for a globule of opinion, one needed to look high and low, reinforcing the notion that millions of websites feed off a handful of facts.

Maradona is one of the most compelling and controversial characters in football history, but so far the conversation hardly goes deeper than "he is going to Dubai".

Among the sparse analysis outside the UAE:

The Telegraph suggested that "Over-large suits … and lewd suggestions to journalists after crucial victories are about to come back into fashion. … Maradona ended his reign [with Argentina] by accusing his mentor of betrayal, insulting his former employers in the Argentine Football Association and then spending much of the next six months asking for the job back."

Rick Chandler of msnbc.com was more tart: "If any aliens are watching Earth right now, please do not judge us on this. … Let the mayhem begin."

Others construed it in regional terms. Hurriyet, an English-language newspaper in Turkey, noted that Maradona to Wasl showed that "the up-and-coming Arab football scene is likely to be boosted with a blockbuster signing".

Reuters saw it as another move by Dubai visionaries to "flex their football muscle after a private firm Royal Emirates Group bought struggling Spanish La Liga club Getafe".

A few original ideas came out of Argentina, Maradona's home country.

Clarin declared that Maradona landed in Dubai because he is "looking for tranquillity. Peace and quiet. In addition to a new market that is growing fast".

La Nacion of Buenos Aires wrote that Maradona had been keen to get into coaching, and he had "satisfied that urge" when he "selected a rather exotic destination: Dubai, one of the seven emirates of the Far East".

The lesson here for Wasl is that they must keep pushing their Maradona connection if they wish to stay on the radar.

They can begin by doing everything Al Ahli did not when they signed Fabio Cannavaro nearly a year ago.

After an arrival press conference, Cannavaro went into seclusion, as far as the media knew. If he has given one interview since he arrived, we missed it. Global football fans may be excused if they thought Cannavaro had retired, so little is he in the news while Ahli reportedly turns over as much as Dh22.5 million to him.

Ahli appears to have squandered an expensive opportunity to leverage the presence of the one-time Fifa Player of the Year into attention, perhaps even merchandising. Instead, Cannavaro's UAE legacy is a couple of dozen appearances in Ahli's back line.

Wasl must make Maradona available to get value from him.

Give reporters a crack at him before matches as well as the league-mandated post-match conference. Encourage him to do television interviews. Put him in touch with fans.

The Maradona buzz is out there, but it is 40,000km wide and one millimetre thick. Recruiting "El Diego" is just the start of the work Wasl need do.

poberjuerge@thenational.ae