Soccer

Maradona clashes with fans after Al Wasl loss

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP)

Diego Maradona was restrained by security staff as he confronted opposition fans in the stands after the team's latest match, angry at threats and abuse directed toward wives and girlfriends of his Al Wasl players.

Maradona called the Al Shabab fans ''cowards'' on Thursday after they heckled the women, including what the local media said was his girlfriend during his team's 2-0 loss. The scene, posted on Friday on YouTube, showed an angry Maradona jostling with opposition fans and security and then helping escort the women to safety.

The women were eventually led by players and the police from Al Shabab's stadium. The girlfriend of one of the players, Juan Mercier, tripped and fell down the stairs before Mercier himself ran to her aid. Local media reported no one was seriously hurt.

''Some people are cowards. They only attack women and have no courage to confront men,'' Maradona said according to The Gulf News. ''This is the first time I am upset with the fans. If they are angry with me they should know that I did it (climbed the stands) for my (girlfriend) because someone was calling her names. They shouldn't be angry with me. They should be angry with the people who did this. They are cowards, not real fans.''

The dispute started when Al Wasl fans started heckling Al Shabab's Brazilian striker Ciel, who set up the first goal and scored the second.

Maradona has been involved in contentious incidents since signing a two-year contract with the United Arab Emirates club in May. He has warned he would quit if the club doesn't increase its budget for players next season, had run-ins with rival coaches and seen his goalkeeper banned for 17 games for slapping an opposition coach.

Meanwhile, Maradona's arrival has yet to lift the club from a disappointing season.

The 1986 World Cup-winning Argentine was expected to elevate the club back to the top. Instead, it sits in fifth place, 15 points behind league leader Al Ain with only a month and a half of the season to go. It also has been knocked out of several cup competitions and Maradona has conceded Al Wasl has little chance of picking up any silverware this season.

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