Is soccer legend Diego Maradona in line to become coach of Palestinian national team?

Some reports in Arab news sources from the Gulf claim that Maradona is in advanced stages of negotiations to take over the Palestinian national team.

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October 1, 2014 17:05
2 minute read.
Diego Maradona

Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Internet reports in Palestinian and Arab media say that Diego Maradona, the Argentine soccer icon, is being mentioned as a possible candidate to become coach of the Palestinian national team.

Reports in Arab news sources from the Gulf claim that Maradona is in advanced stages of negotiations to take over the Palestinian national team as it prepares for the AFC Asian Cup tournament at the start of next year in Australia. This will be the first time that Palestine takes part in the tournament.

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Regarded by many as the best soccer player of all time, the 53-year-old Maradona led Argentina to a World Cup title in 1986 and was named the tournament’s best player. He also had a stellar career playing for Italian club Napoli.

His success as a player, however, has not translated into victories as manager and coach.

He was most recently the coach of Al Wasl of the United Arab Emirates. He also served an unsuccessful stint as manager of the Argentinan national team between 2008 and 2010.

Maradona has stated his support for the Palestinian cause in the past and last month he took part in a charity match in Rome to promote peace and inter-religious cooperation.

Should he eventually coach the team, Maradona will bring to the fore the Palestinian FA’s claims against Israel.



Earlier this year, FIFA president Sepp Blatter and delegates at the FIFA Congress called on the Israeli government to fully commit to FIFA’s plans to ease restrictions on movement for Palestinian footballers.

He said that relations between the Israeli and Palestine football associations had generally improved since a Task Force was established at last year’s Congress in Mauritius and the Israeli government needed to back FIFA’s plans.

After Blatter spoke, Jibril Rajoub, the president of the Palestine FA, said they would not be calling for any sanctions against Israel as he had implied a month earlier, but that the suffering of Palestine football had to end.

“I call on those who are causing the suffering to stop and those that are suffering not to lose hope as they are part of the FIFA family,” he told delegates from all 209 of FIFA’s members including Israel.

After Rajoub’s speech, Blatter congratulated the Israeli delegation for not responding negatively to Rajoub’s pleas saying: “Israeli football, you are not abandoned and I congratulate you today for keeping silent in the spirit of sportsmanship fair play.”

Although Blatter said the situation had improved generally, FIFA, the PFA and the IFA, as well as their respective confederations from Asia (AFC) and Europe (UEFA), were not close to a Memorandum of Understanding which he had hoped they would have been.

“The problems between Israel and Palestine have been going on for more than 50 years and it would not be possible for us to solve them in one year since the Task Force was established,” he said. “But we have made positive first steps.”

Reuters contributed to this report

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