x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Approach for Maradona is denied by the Iraqi FA

Currently second in their World Cup qualifying group and among the favourites to reach 2014 Brazil, the IFA deny any contact with Diego Maradona over their vacant national coach position.

Diego Maradona, the former Al Wasl coach, has been linked to the Iraq national side, but the Iraq Football Association deny any contact with the Argentine.
Diego Maradona, the former Al Wasl coach, has been linked to the Iraq national side, but the Iraq Football Association deny any contact with the Argentine.

Sources in his homeland say Diego Maradona is about to become coach of the Iraq national football team, but an official for the Iraqi Football Association (IFA) on Friday said the story had no basis in fact.

"There is no negotiation between Iraqi Football Association with Diego Maradona and it doesn't have any intention to hire him," the deputy IFA head Abdul-Khaliq Masoud told the Associated Press over the phone.

The denial came a day after an Argentine football official was quoted as saying that Maradona was a leading candidate to succeed Zico, the former Brazil standout, as the coach of Iraq, who remain strong contenders to reach the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Hernan Tofoni, the general manager of World Eleven, which organises international friendly matches for Argentina's national team, was quoted by Argentina's state-run news agency Telam as saying the leadership of the IFA was expected to meet yesterday and complete a deal with Maradona.

The former Argentina great has been based in Dubai since June 2011, first as the coach for Al Wasl during the 2011/12 season.

The Dubai side were eighth in the league, exited the President's Cup in the second round and lost in the semi-finals of the Etisalat Cup.

He was dismissed by the club in July, and soon after became an "honorary sports ambassador" for the Dubai Sports Council.

The DSC could not be reached for comment on Friday.

Before arriving in Dubai, Maradona was his home country's national coach, leading a team boasting Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero to qualification from South America to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. In the quarter-finals, however, Argentina were routed 4-0 by Germany, and Maradona was dismissed a few months later.

His time in charge split public opinion in Argentina with criticism of his tactical decisions, offset by the respect he commands for his achievements as a player.

Iraq are second in their qualifying group, on five points, with Oman and Australia, who have a game in hand. Iraq's final three matches are in June, away to Oman, home to Japan and away to Australia.

The top two finishers in Group B qualify directly for Brazil 2014.

Iraq are handicapped by playing their home games at a neutral site, usually Doha.

Zico stepped down last month and complained that he had not been paid in four months.

Maradona has seemed to enjoy his time in Dubai, which he has described "as like a paradise".

His arrival in the UAE was met with great enthusiasm, and 14 months ago he was rumoured as a possible candidate to be the country's national coach, a job that eventually went to Mahdi Ali, who led the UAE Under 23 side to the London 2012 Olympics.

 

poberjuerge@thenational.ae

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