Maradona rejects criticism of his coaching inexperience

October 30th, 2008 - 2:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Buenos Aires, Oct 30 (DPA) Diego Maradona said Wednesday that he was looking forward to work as head coach of Argentina and refuted criticism from those who said he lacks experience for the job.”They talk about my lack of experience, but I have 20-some years in the Argentine national team. That is why it sounds funny to me when they talk of lack of experience,” Maradona said as he left his home in the Buenos Aires suburb of Ezeiza.

The appointment was met with cautious surprise by fans in football-crazy Argentina. While Maradona’s past talent on the field is unquestioned, many are casting doubts on his qualifications to coach the senior team, based on his scarce experience managing club teams and the poor results he obtained.

He had a brief stint as coach at the Argentine clubs Mandiyu and Racing Club, both in the mid 1990s. In 23 games as coach, he won three and lost eight with 12 draws.

“I don’t think I will be surprised by anything,” Maradona said.

“I am very calm, and I know that we have an incredible material to make Argentina smile as they watch the national team play.”

Maradona won support and praise from Argentine football star Lionel Messi.

“He is a great. I admire him for what he gave to Argentine football,” Messi said in an interview that the Italian daily La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Maradona also got the backing of Corrado Ferlaino, the former president of Italian club Napoli, whom the Argentine led to two Serie A titles in the 1980s. Ferlaino said Wednesday that Maradona was the unofficial coach when he played for the club.

“For one season (Ottavio) Bianchi was the coach, but from the second year players no longer talked to Bianchi, and Maradona was the true coach,” Ferlaino told Radio 1.

Ferlaino, 77, who had a love-hate relationship with the talented player, said Bianchi’s successor Alberto Bigon also relied on the Argentine star.

“As a coach he was more focused on physical than on technical aspects, so he left Maradona to act as coach inside the pitch,” Ferlaino said.

He said that Maradona “will handle the challenge very well. He is an intelligent person.”

In Argentina, Maradona’s personal troubles, including drug and alcohol abuse that was considered life-threatening in recent years, were among the elements casting a shadow over the appointment.

In recent months Maradona has appeared serene and has reportedly been able to stay clean and sober.

The Argentine daily La Nacion on Wednesday described the decision by the Association of Argentine Football (AFA) as “daring.”

“Diego is risking the Maradona myth,” La Nacion wrote.

The newspaper voiced the “fear of seeing the Maradona myth sitting on a bench that very much resembles an electric chair.” The legendary former player risks exposing his human imperfection “to the mistakes and the common happenings of an earthly task.”

“As a fan, having Diego on the Argentine bench is inspiring,” the sports daily Ole said. “It is his best moment. He looks lucid, close to the players.”

However, as a coach he is an “unknown,” Ole wrote.

An unscientific online survey by the Argentine newspaper Clarin showed that 74 per cent of respondents disagreed with Maradona’s appointment.

He is set to head a national team that will include Carlos Bilardo - coach of the Maradona-led team that won the 1986 World Cup - as manager.

AFA was set to confirm the appointment later Thursday, which was Maradona’s 48th birthday.

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