DUBAI: Diego Maradona was fired as Al Wasl coach on Tuesday after disappointing season in which the former Argentina great failed to win a title for the Dubai club.
Maradona had one year left on his contract, but the club’s board of directors met on Tuesday and issued a statement saying the former World Cup winner and his technical staff had been immediately relieved of their duties. Maradona, who was on vacation and not in Dubai, could not be reached for comment. His replacement was not announced.
Expectations were great when Maradona arrived in Dubai on a two-year deal in May, 2011. He was popular with fans and helped put UAE football on the map, but his team finished eighth in the 12-team league and failed to either qualify for next season’s Asian Champions League nor win any domestic titles.
The final straw appears to have been the team’s failure to win a second-tier competition called the GCC Champions League at the end of the season after winning the first leg of the final against Bahrain’s Al Muharraq 3-1. Al Wasl returned home and expectations were high that Maradona would win his first trophy as club manager. Team President Sheik Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum — a brother of the Dubai ruler — even turned up for the first time this season to join the expected celebration.
But the Bahraini club won the match 3-1 against a nine-man Al Wasl, after two players including the goalkeeper were sent off for headbutting opponents. With the teams even at 4-4 on aggregate, Al Muharraq won the title 5-4 on penalties.
The loss led to the board of directors resigning and fueled speculation that Maradona would quit. Maradona joined Al Wasl following his firing as the Argentina national team coach. Argentina had mixed results during his reign, which included two of their worst losses — a 6-1 rout by Bolivia in World Cup qualifying and a 4-0 quarter-final loss to Germany during the 2010 tournament in South Africa.