Maradona attacks FIFA ‘dinosaurs’

Corruption and match-fixing scandals that have undermined FIFA

will continue as long as the sport’s governing body is run by

”dinosaurs,” football great Diego Maradona claimed Saturday.

The Argentine, in Dubai to sign a two-year contract to coach

local Al Wasl club, said the sport’s governing body had been badly

run over the years. He attacked Wednesday’s re-election of

President Sepp Blatter ”who has never kicked a football” and what

he called the ”arrogance” of all its executives.

”When you have so much power, you can do so many stupid things

as is happening in FIFA,” Maradona said. ”Every day, there is

corruption, match fixing scandals. This is not football. We are not

talking about football here. This is not something that people who

watch football deserve.”

Maradona said it was ”no surprise” that Blatter was re-elected

to a fourth four-year term, saying the 75-year-old Swiss and other

executives will remain in office for as long as they can.

”Unfortunately in FIFA, we have a museum, a big museum,” he


”They are dinosaurs who don’t want to give up power,” Maradona

said. ”This Blatter being re-elected, that is not something

unique. People like us know what is going on.”

He did not elaborate.

Maradona is the latest big name player or football executive to

take aim at FIFA, which has seen its credibility damaged in recent

months by an unprecedented string of match-fixing cases and

corruption allegations swirling around the 2018 and ’22 World Cup

bids. It culminated last week when Blatter’s only challenger for

the presidency, Mohamed bin Hammam, withdrew from the race amid

bribery allegations which he denies.

Just as Maradona’s press conference was ending, FIFA announced

it was investigating Argentina’s 4-1 loss in Nigeria on Wednesday

after betting patterns suggested it was targeted by match


Maradona said it would be best for football if Blatter and other

FIFA executives – like his longtime opponent Julio Grondona,

president of the Argentine Football Association – resigned but

doubted it would ever happen.

”They are going to look after themselves, look after their

backs,” he said. ”They will stay until they are 105 and 110 and

football unfortunately will be the same.”

Maradona, 50, agreed last month to coach the little-known Al

Wasl club in the Gulf. He hasn’t coached since leading Argentina to

the World Cup quarterfinals last year.

Dressed in a black shirt and smiling at the crowd of nearly 100

reporters, Maradona insisted he had come to Dubai to work with the

goal of bringing the club a championship next year. Al Wasl

currently is tied for fourth place which means it can still qualify

for a spot in next year’s Asian Champions League.

The Dubai club has not provided any details of the contract and

Maradona denied reports he is being paid $10 million.

Maradona declined to name players he hopes to sign for the club,

only promising to focus on acquiring young talent with a desire to

win. He said he would not follow the lead of other Gulf clubs in

acquiring big name veterans because he didn’t want Al Wasl to

become ”a grave full of white elephants.”

Last year, another UAE club Al Ahli signed former Juventus

captain Fabio Cannavaro but he incurred several injuries and the

club has struggled.

”Today, I feel the same challenge, the same way as I felt when

I was coaching the national team,” said Maradona, who leads his

first match in September. ”If we work hard with a good team, we

can make history. This is something my players have to understand.

If someone doesn’t understand that, surely he will not play.”

Maradona was captain when Argentina won the 1986 World Cup in

Mexico, before retiring in 1997.

Before taking over as coach of Argentina in 2008, he had coached

only Deportivo Mandiyu in 1994 and Racing Club in 1995. In both

cases, he left before his contract was up.

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