x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

'Passion' runs deep in motivated Al Wasl coach Diego Maradona

The Argentine is not perturbed by his team's mid-table standing and believes his side have a good chance of beating Sharjah today.

Coach Diego Maradona, right, has the backing of the Al Wasl management.
Coach Diego Maradona, right, has the backing of the Al Wasl management.

DUBAI // Diego Maradona, the Al Wasl coach, has watched his side start the season as title hopefuls only to slip to a series of results that has seen them muster only 15 points from a possible 33 and triumph just once in their past six games.

Wasl sit seventh in the league, closer in points to the bottom of the table than the top and yet the familiar sound of an Emirates-based coach's contract being prematurely terminated has, according to Marwan bin Bayat, the club chairman, never even been contemplated.

Bin Bayat gave his full backing to the Argentine this week, saying that a full evaluation will be undertaken only at the end of the season.

On Saturday evening, during Maradona's weekly press briefing, the coach conceded that, with his team five points off the prerequisite fourth place, Bin Bayat's ambition of qualifying for the Asian Champions League is likely out of grasp.

"Football is a sport that is full of excitement and joy," said the 51 year old. "Stress and pressure is felt by employees who work behind a desk, not in football, which is a special environment. There is no pressure on me, my team or my players."

It is difficult to believe a man who feels no pressure would gesticulate quite so wildly as Maradona does on the sidelines of the pitch when his side underperforms, but the former Argentina coach says it is passion, not pressure, that drives him.

"My anger will always remain," he said. "I still have it deep within me: when I face a loss, it still feels like the fist time I lost and it is the same when I win; it feels like the first time. This is me, it is part of my character, my personality. I told my wife: 'I sometimes won't be able to calm down, but this is my passion.'

"It doesn't matter if there are 100,000 fans at the San Paolo in Napoli or 2,000 fans here. For me, it does not matter, so long as I am involved in this profession and part of this game that I love."

In terms of love, the 1986 World Cup winner said he ranks the beautiful game as the most important thing in the world to him after his grandson, Benjamin – the son of his youngest daughter Giannina and her husband Sergio Aguero, the Manchester City forward. Benjamin visited him in Dubai last November for the first time.

On Monday night, Wasl travel to 10th-placed Sharjah looking to build on last week's 2-1 victory at Al Ahli. They will be without Mohammed Jamal and Khaled Darwish in midfield, but Maradona feels his side can return to Dubai with three points. "We are ready for the match," he said. "We have been preparing quite extensively and we know they are missing quite a few players, including Edinho. Sharjah are a good side, but I trust my team will give a good performance."

Defeat could see his side fall to eighth in the league, but the coach has no plans to walk away with his objective unfulfilled.

“I will give 100 per cent and try to prove to the people who put faith in me, that they made the right decision,” he said.

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae


””Follow The National Sport on @SprtNationalUAE & Gary Meenaghan on @GMeenaghan