x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Al Wasl stand by Diego Maradona, who 'will be given a chance'

Chairman Marwan bin Bayat says the club are not considering letting the Argentine go and that no one is blaming the coach or the players for the lacklustre results so far this season.

Diego Maradona has complained to everyone, from touchline officials and team management, about everything, from officiating to lack of 'professional' players. What he has not done a lot of, up to now, is win consistently.
Diego Maradona has complained to everyone, from touchline officials and team management, about everything, from officiating to lack of 'professional' players. What he has not done a lot of, up to now, is win consistently.

DUBAI // Marwan bin Bayat, the Al Wasl chairman, is confident Diego Maradona is the man to turn results around and secure a spot in the Asian Champions League.

Wasl are sixth in the Pro League with 15 points, 12 behind leaders Al Ain, after dropping 13 points in a five-game stretch.

The slide has left fans disappointed and critics have been busy discussing the future of Maradona, whose arrival in the summer was greeted with much hype and expectation.

However, bin Bayat has expressed his confidence in the ability of his players and his coach, and has challenged them to prove their detractors wrong.

"There were high hopes, but unfortunately the results have not been as pleasing as we had hoped," said bin Bayat.

"So there will be steps taken to fix some of the issues that arose.

"The technical staff will evaluate this period, not just the players but look at all the factors, and try to pinpoint where the team went wrong and attempt to fix that."

Wasl have been making headlines around the globe since signing Maradona to a two-year contract in June. Their Twitter following, a modest 37 before the Argentine legend's arrival, has grown to more than 3,300.

The results on the pitch, however, have failed to match that upward climb, but Maradona has vowed to stay on at the Zabeel Stadium and help turn things around, and the club's management is willing to give him time.

"The challenge still remains for this season and we should try to, at least, make up for some of the lack of performance in the first half of the league," bin Bayat said.

"We still have a few matches to go and we hope that the performance level will show a considerable improvement.

"The players have a big responsibility now and they should live up to the responsibility. They should try harder to achieve our common goals.

"Hopefully, we can still achieve a position in the league that will allow Al Wasl to participate on the global stage [in the Asian Champions League next year, for which a top-four finish in the league is required].

"This is one of our objectives for the coming period."

Asked about the likelihood of Maradona keeping his job for next season if the trend of poor results continue, bin Bayat said: "It is too early to answer this question. Maradona has a two-year contract and he is working very hard. I work very closely with him; we meet twice a week to discuss things. Maradona has put in a lot of effort in developing the first team.

"I don't want to blame Maradona or even the players for what has been happening recently. There are several reasons behind it and we have to take corrective action. Maradona will be given a chance. We will not sit and judge him over the next game or two. We will look at what has happened and if mistakes have been made, corrections will be made, not judgements.

"There will be no judgement even at the end of the season; what will happen is an evaluation of the whole season. We have seen this with other coaches, where they were given time to fix things and they turned things around and were able to succeed."

 

arizvi@thenational.ae