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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Fujairah ready for the arrival of Diego Maradona as pre-season begins ahead of promotion push

One of football's greatest ever players will lead the First Division club as they attempt to reach the Arabian Gulf League.

Diego Maradona poses alongside the Fujairah logo following his appointment as manager in May. Courtesy Fujairah Football Club
Diego Maradona poses alongside the Fujairah logo following his appointment as manager in May. Courtesy Fujairah Football Club

Fujairah are looking forward to welcoming Diego Maradona and his coaching staff to the emirate as the Argentine’s new side begin pre-season on Saturday.

The former World Cup winner, 56, takes charge of the First Division club this week after being appointed in May. He signed a one-year contract, with his primary target ensuring Fujairah seal promotion to the 2018/19 Arabian Gulf League.

Although the players returned to Fujairah on Wednesday to conduct preliminary medical examinations, work has continued behind the scenes to get ready for Maradona’s arrival. His backroom staff has been decided, with an all-Argentine trio of Luis Islas, Gaston Romero and Bruno Maffoni landing in the UAE on Wednesday night. Islas, a former international teammate of Maradona, will serve as assistant manager, with Romero employed as the goalkeeper coach and Maffoni an analyst.

Nasser Al Yammahi, chairman of the board of directors at Fujairah, said the club are excited to begin working with Maradona, who last coached Al Wasl in the UAE top flight for 14 months between 2011 and 2012. Fujairah currently compete in the second tier.

“Of course, Maradona is a very famous coach,” Al Yammahi said. “Any club would need someone like Maradona at their club. Hopefully we’ll have good luck with him here - the players are very happy to have Maradona coaching them.”

Al Yammahi said Fujairah have experienced a high level of interest from media organisations both inside and outside the country since they confirmed Maradona as manager on May 7. The former Boca Juniors, Barcelona and Napoli forward is regarded as one of the greatest footballers in history, most notably for captaining Argentina to victory at the 1986 World Cup.

“The media, not only local but international, have been very interested, starting from two months ago when we announced Maradona,” Al Yammahi said. “They have focused on Fujairah and focused on Fujairah Sports Club. That is very good.

“People have asked why Maradona chose Fujairah, and why Fujairah chose Maradona. Then they have come here and seen that the club has a good stadium, good facilities, good everything. It is an important time for the club.”

At present, Fujairah look like retaining Patrick Eze, the Nigerian striker who spent time last season on loan at Saudi Arabia’s Al Qasidiyah. They have decided to release Lebanese forward Hassan Maatouk, with discussions taking place as to who could replace him. Fujairah are looking for another forward or someone to operate more centrally, with a Uruguayan player thought to feature prominently on their list of targets.

“We’re looking for another player,” Al Yammahi said. “Maradona has some options also from Argentina and, in this week or next week when Maradona is here, we will all sit together and we will choose one. We have looked at a lot of players.”

The team will train in the UAE until the beginning of August, before leaving on August 6 for a 20-day camp in the Netherlands. Last season, Fujairah finished fourth in the First Division to miss out on a return to the Arabian Gulf League (AGL). They last competed in the AGL two seasons ago.

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