x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Diego Maradona lights the touch paper ahead of Al Ain grudge match

Al Wasl coach labels the Pro League referees 'celebrities' and also calls rival coach Olaroiu "rude".

Diego Maradona feels his players are being victimised by the Football Association.
Diego Maradona feels his players are being victimised by the Football Association.

DUBAI // Diego Maradona has re-ignited the simmering feud with his counterpart at Al Ain by calling Cosmin Olaroiu "rude" ahead of tonight's match between the two sides at Tahnoun bin Mohammed Stadium

Al Wasl and Al Ain meet for the first time since the acrimonious Etisalat Cup clash at the same ground last month which descended into a raft of insults being traded by both managers.

Olaroiu accused Maradona of being disrespectful by wearing "short pants" and commented on his chequered personal life. Maradona responded by saying the Romanian should "learn some manners". There were also reports of Al Ain fans throwing stones at Wasl supporters.

All eyes will be trained on the dugout tonight to watch the fascinating subplot unfold between the two managers.

"This is a difficult game because Al Ain is a good team, despite their rude coach," Maradona said.

The Argentine has injury concerns going into the game, but his biggest concern is with the Pro League's disciplinary committee who, he feels, are victimising his Al Wasl side.

Darwish Ahmad, the club's midfielder, has been suspended for two games for a hand gesture he made during last week's 2-2 draw with Al Shabab.

"I am disappointed and annoyed at this decision against my player," Maradona said. "I could not believe how quickly they came to their decision against Darwish."

Al Ain have also expressed concern about bias this season, claiming the Football Association were acting as their "12th opponent" after Mirel Radoi was banned for two matches.

Yet Maradona feels his team are being singled out.

"If any other teams are in trouble, it seems that the disciplinary committee go on vacation," Maradona said.

"If the committee is taking action against Al Wasl, then why are they not doing that against other teams and other players? They do not focus on anyone else, it is always Al Wasl.

"It sometimes looks as if they are targeting us. The referees are quick to take a decision against me personally and against my players.

"I try not to let it bother me because in my 36 years of football I have learnt to deal with such things, but this is not good for football in the UAE."

Maradona said Shabab, this season, and Fabio Cannavaro, last season at Al Ahli, have been critical of referees.

Josef Hickersberger, the Al Wahda coach, had also flayed the match officials last week.

"This needs to be sorted out as soon as possible," Maradona said.

"A good referee goes unnoticed. It seems that, in the UAE, the referees are on camera as much as the players.

"They want to be celebrities and have the light shine on them. I do not understand this."

 

ncameron@thenational.ae

Tahnoun bin Mohammed Stadium, 8pm.