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Rediff.com  » Sports » Maradona ponders his future as Argentina coach

Maradona ponders his future as Argentina coach

July 14, 2010 21:00 IST

Diego MaradonaDiego Maradona could decide his future on Wednesday when he is expected to meet Argentine Football Association (AFA) president Julio Grondona.

As he walked off the pitch after Argentina's crushing quarter-final World Cup exit, Maradona hinted that it was time for him to quit as national coach. His jubilant welcome home might have made him think twice.

In stark contrast to the frosty reception given to coaches from Brazil and England after their disappointing early exits, Maradona got a hero's welcome despite a 4-0 loss to Germany.

More than 20,000 fans greeted him at Buenos Aires airport, a lawmaker proposed a statue in his honour and he was urged to stay on by President Cristina Fernandez, who took over broadcast rights to soccer games last year.

"Hang in there Maradona," Fernandez said last week in a speech to supporters. "No Argentine has given us so much happiness on the soccer field as Diego Maradona."

During the World Cup, pundits hailed Argentina's attacking style, the majestic dribbling of Lionel Messi and the striking force of Carlos Tevez and Gonzalo Higuain.

It was Maradona who stole the limelight, however, prowling the sidelines in a shiny, grey suit and inspiring hope that he could again propel Argentina to success in soccer's most coveted trophy, this time as coach.

LOW PROFILE

Maradona has been keeping a low profile since returning from South Africa, staying at his home to reflect on the loss away from the glare of media and fans.

AFA spokesman Ernesto Cherquis Bialo, who helped to write Maradona's autobiography, said the decision is down to Maradona.

"If Maradona wants to...he will continue. People have unconditional support for Maradona; other coaches who made the same mistake as him (losing in the quarter-finals), have had to resign."

A close friend said Maradona has been feeling down since the World Cup defeat despite receiving the support of players including Gabriel Heinze, captain Javier Mascherano and Messi.

"He's dealing with the blow in his own way," the friend said, asking not to be named. "He's always said he wanted to be the team's coach for the rest of his life, but you always have to consider whether it makes sense."

Maradona struggled with drug addiction, obesity and alcoholism for years, making his comeback at the helm of the national squad an even more remarkable personal achievement.

Whether or not he takes the reins of the team for the Copa America later in July or retires to spend time with his family, fans who remember his genius as a player and patchy results as coach are likely to stay loyal.

"I wanted him to be champion again because he deserved it," Alberto Blanco, 39, said in front of a giant Maradona inflatable set up in the centre of Buenos Aires,

"I know he's not the best coach but the team also needs courage and heart and mystique, and he offered that to his players."

 

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