x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Maradona 'anxious' to get started with Al Wasl

Argentine legend arrives at Dubai club’s stadium to take training session.

Diego Maradona arrives at his new home Al Wasl FC.
Diego Maradona arrives at his new home Al Wasl FC.

Dubai // At 9.40pm last night Diego Maradona’s long-awaited reign at Al Wasl began in earnest when he arrived at the ground for a squad training session for the first time.

He was driven to a training pitch beside the ground and joked with his assistant coaches before heading into the dressing room area.

He was very bouncy and smiley and looked in good shape.

The Argentine had landed at Dubai International Airport at around 11pm on Wednesday, and was greeted with a warm welcome by Marwan bin Bayat, the chairman of the football club, and the two spoke in a private lounge for almost an hour about what would happen over the next days, weeks and months.

Maradona, 50, claimed to be in such a hurry to start that he even got his hair cut in Buenos Aires before boarding his 20-hour flight to save time as he now did not have to waste a precious hour in the barber once he arrived in the UAE.

“I am more than excited to be back and I am anxious to start working with the team,” he said.

“I have been constantly thinking of different training methods and new strategies while I was away, even while I was on the plane. There are new ideas formulating in my head and I can’t wait to start implementing them on the ground.”

Club sources revealed that Maradona had been full of smiles and energy during his first 24 hours in the country.

The players have been told not to speak to the media before they get a chance to meet the new coach.

Wasl have deliberately tried to keep his arrival low key, despite the huge interest from all the over world. A press conference is expected next week when Maradona will get his opportunity to speak publicly to the fans of the Dubai’s club, and football supporters right across the country who are sure to be fascinated about the upcoming events.

Bin Bayat, who has been in constant contact Maradona and his people in Argentina over the past month, is the man who managed to sell the idea of making such a high profile and colourful character the team’s new coach to his board of directors.
He was proud to say that his dream had become a reality and believed the 1986 World Cup winner would thoroughly enjoy his new life in a city that he described as “perfect” on his first visit in May.

“‘Maradona is not only a guest of Al Wasl, but for Dubai as a whole,” said bin Bayat.

“As such, we are absolutely certain that he will love his new home and can speak for the entire city when we say, ‘We are happy to have you here’.”

In a statement released by Wasl yesterday, it was made clear that despite his non-appearance since the players began pre-season training almost two weeks ago, the coach had been working hard.

“While in South America, Maradona kept in continuous contact with his assistants here in Dubai,” it said.

“[He was] asking for updates, status reports and images of Al Wasl training grounds, to familiarise himself with proceedings and to be able to jump start into planning and strategising for the team.”

Maradona has already signed the Uruguayan striker Juan Manuel Olivera and expects to add the experienced midfielder Mariano Donda, from Argentina, to the squad before long. The Chilean playmaker Edson Puch was signed before Maradona’s appointment.

ncameron@thenational.ae


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