Diego Maradona (centre) and Ahmad Al Sharif, Secretary General of DSC (right), address the media at a press conference announcing the extension of Maradona’s contract as Dubai’s honorary ambassador of sports at the Raffles Hotel yesterday. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: Youth development, fostering bilateral ties between the UAE and Argentina and assisting national football team coach Mahdi Ali are among the priorities laid down by Diego Maradona after renewing his agreement as honorary sports ambassador for Dubai for another year.

The legendary former footballer has spent the last year promoting the sports scene in Dubai both within the UAE and abroad ever since he left his role as Al Wasl coach last summer. And the Dubai Sports Council (DSC) yesterday announced at a packed media conference at the Raffles Hotel in Dubai that Maradona would continue for the next 12 months.

“I am far away from home but in Dubai I have found my second home,” the 52-year-old said. “I promise to work hard and offer all my experience to promote Dubai as this place has given me a feel and a fresh lease of life in football. Today I am not playing but I am still a part of football and I am going to contribute to sports in Dubai, God willing.

“I am very happy for living here for another year in my second home and I want to give all my experience to the UAE. Honestly, I was worried and anxious to renew this contract.”

Though he has been at every major sports event in Dubai during the last year, Maradona admitted he has deliberately avoided club football matches. “I don’t want to give anyone the impression that I am trying to intrude and make a comeback [in coaching]. I am relishing my role as a sports ambassador for Dubai, and I would rather work with juniors in the 12-16 years age bracket rather than pay attention to the seniors,” he said.

However, the brand ambassador was open to the idea of being a consultant to UAE coach Ali. “Some of the UAE players have great skills and potential. They can reach a high level, but they also need to have a lot of passion for football,” he said.

“If the team can have the passion, they can achieve anything, including playing in the World Cup. Very soon I will see Mahdi Ali and exchange some ideas on how to improve and update the coaching process to achieve the ultimate goal of making it to the Fifa World Cup.

“But right now the first item on my agenda is to go to Argentina for a short holiday as I haven’t seen my family for a long time.”

Dr Ahmad Sa’ad Al Sharif, DSC general secretary, hailed the dedication and commitment shown by the Argentinian. “Many people say many things about him, but I have known him to be a very mature man. He has close ties with some of the top leaders in the world and he is in prime position to make a difference to Dubai and the UAE. He will play a huge role for us in the future,” he said.

The signing of the agreement was witnessed by DSC board members Saeed Mohammad Hareb and Laila Suhail.