Maradona has to prove Fujairah switch isn't pure pantomine

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Leader of the pack: Diego Maradona is unveiled by Fujairah (Fujairah).

The setting said more than words about Diego Maradona, arguably football’s greatest player, as a coach.

Sunday’s unveiling as Fujairah boss attracted the media en masse, which is typical for a character made up of equal parts inspiration and controversy. But the end of a five-year hiatus from the technical area came at a second-division outfit, in a city far away from the bright lights of football’s beating European heart and in a nondescript hotel’s conference room.

The challenge now for club and tactician is to repeal the sense of pantomime about the whole exercise throughout 2017/18.

Once the startling burst of photographer’s flashes which always greet Argentina’s venerated World Cup 1986 winner subsided, he audibly requested “un cafe” – a coffee –  then got down to the business of delivering the unique soundbites lapped up by global media.

The obvious issue is whether this facet was most important when deciding Maradona was best qualified to take Fujairah back up to the Arabian Gulf League.

No other action in the club’s 49-year history has generated coverage in publications such as L’Equipe, BBC Sport and Gazzetta dello Sport.

This is especially pertinent when you consider that he was last sacked by Al Wasl after a trophlyess 2011/12 and exited Lionel Messi’s La Albiceleste because of a brutal 4-0 chasing by Germany in World Cup 2010’s quarter-finals.

The man immortalised in graffiti on the walls of Naples went on to say Fujairah is “my top-priority project” and he wanted “the glory of their grandfather and father” to be seen by Benjamin Aguero and Diego Fernando Maradona.

Tellingly, no details were proffered about if he has developed his coaching skills while away.

The hype will subside as dogged pre-season work is undertaken. Maradona and his new employers have plenty to prove, starting from now.

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Maradona vows to make it an 'impossible task' to beat Fujairah

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Diego's back: Maradona with the Fujairah shirt (Fujairah).

Fired up Argentina legend Diego Maradona has vowed to make it “an impossible task” for anyone to beat his Fujairah side, as one of football’s most-iconic figures prepares to end a long absence from the dugout.

Maradona, 56, stunned the globe a week ago when a surprise one-season deal was announced to coach the Wolves for 2017/18. This means the storied ex-Boca Juniors, Barcelona and Napoli superstar will be in charge of an outfit in First Division League, five years since he was sacked by top-flight Al Wasl.

Speaking at Al Diar Siji Hotel in his new city on the east coast of the UAE, El Pibe de Oro reinforced an ambition to guide the Wolves back to glory.

“I want to achieve the goals and desires of the people of Fujairah, as well as all our aspirations,” said the controversial World Cup 1986 winner with La Albiceleste.

“Fujairah is my top-priority project and I will give it all my time, nothing else will distract me.

“Those who think of beating Fujairah will have to beat Maradona. I will make this an impossible task for everyone.

“Mentally, we are very strong. From the first moment we spoke, this house has become my house.

“There is a great blend here, between the technical and tactical aspects. I have been provided great support to achieve success here.

“I have received many other offers. But as I said, honestly, I am a son of Dubai and son of the UAE.”

Fujairah finished fourth last term, two places and nine points away from the promotion spots. They enjoyed a two-year spell in the Arabian Gulf League from 2014-16.

The man trying to lead them back to the Emirates’ premier competition is widely considered one of the sport’s greatest players, but a coach with a patchy record.

Despite this chequered reputation, Maradona insists he was not short of options to get back into management. His previous trophyless tenure with Wasl was terminated midway through a two-year arrangement.

He said: “I received invitations from many places, Kazakhstan and Russia for example.

“But I have told my agent to stop, as my only agent now is Fujairah.

“Football doesn’t know fear, it knows joy and entertainment. Unfortunately, I am 56-years old and I am not able to play anymore.”

Maradona has spent the last seven years living in Dubai after his contract with Argentina was terminated following a disappointing quarter-final exit at World Cup 2010.

Apart from Wasl, who he yesterday claimed “fooled” him, Maradona also worked as an ambassador for Dubai Sports Council. A penchant for quarrelsome behaviour continued throughout this time and reappeared once again.

“The UAE saved me from [disgraced ex-FIFA president Sepp] Blatter and [deceased former Argentine Football Association president Julio] Grondona,” Maradona claimed. “They opened the doors when all other doors were closed because of them.

“It is not about money, it is about feelings.”

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Henk ten Cate reveals he could leave newly crowned AGL champions Al Jazira to reunite with family

Matt Jones 12/05/2017
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Henk ten Cate admits he will speak with his family about his future

No sooner was he celebrating leading the club to a first league title in six years, Henk ten Cate admitted he may not be in charge of newly-crowned Arabian Gulf League champions Al Jazira next season.

The Dutchman, who revealed he rejected a chance to replace Danny Blind as Netherlands boss just two weeks ago, picked up the AGL crown last night as the Pride of Abu Dhabi ended a glorious season by easing to a 4-0 win against Al Dhafra.

But, in his post-match press conference, the 62-year-old admitted he will discuss his future with his family, who he been living separately from since taking the reins at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium 18 months ago at the request of close friend and former chairman of the board of directors of Al Jazira, Buti Al Qubaisi.

“First of all it’s not sure that I continue,” said Ten Cate, the former Ajax coach.

“I’m thinking about it. My family is in Europe and I originally came here for six months to help my friend Buti. And it’s now already 18 months so I don’t know if I’m going to continue. I’m going to discuss this with my family first.

“Of course, Al Jazira is a fantastic club and the success we had with this team makes me want to have more. And there is a Club World Cup coming up and everyone wants to participate in that.

“I’m at the end of my career, really. I’m not at the beginning, so things like this you discuss with your family and I will.”

Under Ten Cate’s guidance, utter disaster was averted in 2015/16 when the ex-Barcelona and Chelsea assistant replaced former hero Abel Braga, who had led Jazira to their last title, in 2010/11.

However, his second spell in charge was an unmitigated disaster, with Ten Cate taking over at Christmas 2015 with Jazira in 13th place in the table and staring a relegation battle in the face.

Ten Cate revealed how he was persuaded to stay on following leading Jazira to President’s Cup glory against Al Ain last May.

“Maybe I look younger than I do but I’m 62. I already stopped. I’d stopped coaching when Buti called me,” Ten Cate added.

“He’s the guy who constructed this team, the staff. I didn’t bring any staff and he did a fantastic job because we coped really well together.

“This is not my championship, this is our championship. It’s nice to get credit but it’s not fair to the others. Everyone played their part. Buti never gets any credit, he’s never mentioned but he put this whole thing together.

“He’s a long term friend of mine and he asked me to help him 18 months ago. I took the plane after speaking with him on Boxing Day and came for six months.

“We then won the President’s Cup and he asked me to stay on one year longer. I had to speak to my family and they agreed, but I don’t know if they’re going to agree now. I’m an old man and I’m tired.

“If I stop I stop definitely. I’m not coming in and out. I made an exception for Mr Buti when we were 13th and almost dropped out of the league, but now we are in a solid position and it’s good.”

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