Maradona remains in Dubai as sports 'ambassador'

Associated Press Modified: September 2, 2012 at 10:02 am •  Published: September 2, 2012
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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Diego Maradona is not done with Dubai.

The Argentine soccer great said Sunday he has signed one-year contract to become a special sports adviser to the Dubai Sports Council. The announcement comes less than two months after Maradona was fired as coach for the Dubai club Al Wasl following the team's eighth-place finish in the 12-team UAE Pro League.

"It is a great honor for me," said the 51-year-old Maradona, appearing in a suit and tie at a press conference at the Armani Hotel in Dubai. "I promise that I will exert every effort possible to develop the sports sector in Dubai and encourage the home-grown stars to challenge the rest of the world and reflect the image of Dubai."

After Al Wasl fired him with a year left on his contract, Maradona traveled to China and talked of his desire to coach in that fast-growing market. However, he said he turned down several offers to stay in Dubai, and he wanted to repay the Gulf city for what it has done for him.

He also said he would consider extending his year-long contract should he be successful in his new, largely undefined role.

"I have got many offers but I would like to retire now or relax for some time," Maradona said, without elaborating. "The offers I got were not satisfactory."

Ahmad al-Sharif, the secretary general of the Dubai Sports Council, said Maradona's role would go beyond soccer and would aim to improve the city's sporting image as well as the performance of its athletes. The UAE won no medals at the London Olympics and has been unable to produce any top athletes in golf, tennis or athletics despite hosting many of the world's top sporting events for the past decade.

"There is no doubt that Maradona is a successful example of what sports can do to a talented individual if he shows dedication, keeps developing his talent and represents his country with honor," al-Sharif said. "With such an international position and great talent, he can do more than anyone else can do. He can reach the new generation of talented athletes and motivate them to shine and achieve greater success."

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