Dubai: “I’m back stronger than ever” were the bullish words of former Al Wasl coach Diego Maradona on Sunday after he signed a one-year deal with Dubai Sports Council to become the emirate’s Honorary Ambassador of Sports.
The deal, announced at the Burj Khalifa’s Armani Hotel, will see the 51-year-old Argentine football legend advise local authorities on how to develop sports, as well as attend conferences and functions all over the world to promote the region.
It is believed the vast experience of Maradona, who was sacked by Al Wasl in July after just one season in charge, will help inspire the next generation of athletes and enhance Dubai’s prominence as a global sports hub.
“For those who think I have fallen down or collapsed, I’d like to tell you I’m back stronger than ever,” Maradona said.
“I had many offers [to return to coaching] but they were not satisfactory. I would like to relax now and take some time away [from the game] to form a team and work on the development of sport in Dubai,” added the 1986 World Cup-winning forward and former coach of Argentina.
“I have to change my lifestyle now, wear elegant suits and attend meetings and discuss the problems that may arise in relation to sport. My role is to help upgrade the sports sector as a whole, not only football. But of course the coach is still living within me.”
Maradona was appointed as per the directives of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Sports Council.
And the former Barcelona and Napoli player insisted he was looking forward to a change from the day-to-day rigours of managing a football club.
“I am committed to exert every possible effort to this responsibility and at the age of 51 I would love to do it, and I’m eager to do it in order to return the favour that sports has given me. It’s time to repay the favour,” Maradona said.
“The UAE has a lot of capabilities but we have to take care of these talents and give them what they are lacking compared to other countries.
“Within my career I have witnessed so many catastrophes. I have seen so many things not related to financial matters. I should give advice to handle such problems and convince athletes that they should be ready for the difficulties they might face.”
Dubai Sports Council general secretary Dr Ahmad Al Sharif said: “Maradona is a very humble and caring person who can visit many places and encourage the next generation of athletes. Collaborating our efforts and his support of our activities will utilise another dimension of his character not yet revealed to the media.
“Our relationship with Maradona is not only on paper. It’s a mutual passion between athlete and administration. For this legend to be present with us means a lot, as does the passion Maradona has for Dubai.”