Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 24 October 2019

Fujairah manager Diego Maradona: UAE football ‘opened the doors when all others were closed’

In a wide-ranging news conference on Sunday, the Argentine spoke about his debt to the UAE, his time in charge of Argentina and the growth of football in this country.
Diego Maradona a football as he was officially introduced to the media as the club's new manager at a press conference in Fujairah on Sunday, May 14, 2017. Satish Kumar / The National
Diego Maradona a football as he was officially introduced to the media as the club's new manager at a press conference in Fujairah on Sunday, May 14, 2017. Satish Kumar / The National

Diego Maradona was officially introduced as the new Fujairah manager on Sunday. In a wide-ranging news conference, the Argentine spoke about his debt to the UAE, his time in charge of Argentina and the growth of football in this country.

On his affinity with the Emirates

“The UAE saved me from [former Fifa president Sepp] Blatter and [former Argentine Football Association president Julio] Grondona,” Maradona said of his drawn-out war of words with the duo. “It opened the doors when all others were closed. To me, it’s not just about money. It’s about my feelings. My parents always taught me to be grateful to those who assist you. The seven years I have lived here have been some of the best in my life. Honestly, I am the son of Dubai and the son of the UAE, and always the UAE have dealt with me in the perfect manner. I believe I have 1,000 places around the world, but I have chosen this country and I would never like to leave it, no matter what offers I have from abroad.”

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Read more

■ Diego Maradona: ‘Fujairah is my top-priority project’

■ The task ahead: Diego Maradona ‘not afraid of the challenge’

■ In pictures: Diego Maradona visits Fujairah stadium

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On his two most recent stints in management

“My experience with the Argentina national team was the highest level of experience I’ve had,” Maradona said of his 18 months in charge from December 2008. “There was a very big project, but unfortunately we had to stop in the middle of our journey. After that I had my experience with Al Wasl. We were working to create a big team, but then someone fooled me. But now all I can say is that I love the people and the fans of Dubai and I’m even familiar with their traditions and habits and the way they deal with others. All of these things are priceless. What I want is the liberty and freedom to enjoy living here in the UAE.”

On the difference between playing and managing

“I was the best player in the world throughout history,” the 1986 World Cup winner said. “It’s very difficult to achieve glory whether inside the pitch or outside. It’s two different things, being a player and a coach. We all have our ambitions, but today is Fujairah. My grandson Benjamin is eight years old and he didn’t have the opportunity to see me as a player. I hope he sees me as a coach. This is important to me: to show him the glory of his grandfather and, to my son Diego Fernando, as his father. Always I say that I’m waiting for you. If there is one sport I love and adore it is football.”

On growing Emirati football

“I believe that football in the UAE has developed greatly, without a doubt,” Maradona said. “Since the moment I came to the UAE until today, the players have great skills and abilities and a different mentality. And they train strongly and professionally to achieve personal goals and happiness, but also to please all of the people of the UAE and all the fans here. Our duty is to enforce football and make it a passion for all the fans and the children. Football is a way of life and I have no doubt the UAE will develop in football and will reach glory and everything they desire and wish for, which is to qualify for the World Cup.”

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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Updated: May 15, 2017 04:00 AM

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