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Look Who Has a Job! Diego Maradona

May 14th, 2017 · No Comments · Arabian Gulf League, Dubai, Football, soccer, UAE

El Jefe Loco, as I liked to call him while writing my countdown-sa2010 blog, back when Diego Maradona was coaching Argentina ahead of the 2010 World Cup, is off the unemployment rolls.

He has been hired to coach a club in the UAE.

The biggest and best? Al Ain or Al Ahli?

Well, no.

One of the other “big” clubs in the nation, like Al Jazira, Al Nasr or Al Wahda?

Guess again.

A triumphant return to the UAE club he coached in 2010-11, Al Wasl?

Nope.

Maradona, 56, has been named coach of … tiny Fujairah SC, which not only is bitsy and remote … it is in the second division of UAE soccer.

Yeah. Wow.

El Diego has taken a big, big step down in the world of work.

But Fujairah is about right, considering Maradona’s coaching record.

He may have been one of the best players in the history of the game, but his results as a coach have been wretched.

He dabbled in coaching with two clubs in his native Argentina, winning three, drawing eight, losing 12 in 1994 and 1995.

Despite a lack of experience, he was named coach of the Argentine national team in 2008, and after more than a few bumps in the road (including a Fifa suspension), a star-laden team led by Lionel Messi qualified for South Africa 2010 and won its group — before being destroyed 4-0 by Germany in the first knockout round. He was fired soon after.

A year later, came Maradona’s third club-coaching job, at Wasl, ahead of the 2011-12 UAE season. That team finished eighth in a 12-team league, going 7-5-10.

It was an entertaining one season, if we include crazy stuff that went on as “entertainment”. He forged a feud with Cosmin Olariou, coach of league champions Al Ain, who chastised him for wearing shorts at a game; and he went into the stands after a match, nearly provoking a riot, to “defend” his girlfriend, who was in no danger.

And he ended things with one of the nuttiest sports event I have witnessed, the final of a second-tier regional competition, the GCC Champions League, where Maradona’s Wasl side squandered a 3-1 victory in the first leg to lose 3-1 at home to a Bahrain club, then 5-4 in a shootout, in a match in which two of Maradona’s players were sent off for butting.

Maradona expressed no regrets that night, despite the intemperate behavior of his team, and the fact that he has never won a trophy, as a coach. A month later he was fired, with a year remaining on his two-season contract.

He has not held a job, in the go-to-work-five-days-a-week sense, since 2012, until Fujairah hired him last week.

(He was named honorary ambassador of sport by the Dubai Sports Council, in September of 2012, two months after he was fired by Wasl, and what that appeared to entail was showing up at occasional events in the emirate and posing for photos. He has spent most of his time in Dubai, where he owns a home.)

It must be noted Maradona remains popular in the UAE, where his various suspensions and substance-abuse problems do not eclipse his renown as a great player.

And he likes the UAE. At a press conference in Fujairah he said he was grateful to the country for giving him a haven when former Fifa president Sepp Blatter and former Argentina soccer president Julio Grondona were seeking to destroy him.

Now, he has another coaching job in the UAE. It might seem below him to take over a second-division club in an obscure emirate, but it perhaps the only way forward for El Diego, as a coach, a role he still embraces.

He will be handling a team made up of marginally skilled Emirati players; his input in bringing in a couple of foreigners to carry the scoring load will be crucial to get the team to finish in the top two of a minnows league and back into the top flight.

(Fujairah has played only two seasons in the top flight since the UAE league became fully professional, in 2008. In 2013-14 and 2014-15.)

At least he is back on a payroll, and is in soccer, not just as a meeter-and-greeter, leading a team, albeit an obscure one, with a another chance to show he can coach.

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