* Fans say Maradona's ousting was disrespectful
* Maradona accused soccer chiefs of betraying him
By Eduardo Garcia
BUENOS AIRES, July 29 The end of Maradona's
tenure at the helm of Argentina's national team has dealt a hard
blow to his fans, even though his performance as coach was a far
cry from his genius as a player.
Maradona accused Argentine soccer chiefs on Wednesday of
conspiring to oust him and many fans think he deserved a more
dignified exit despite Argentina's disappointing showing at the
World Cup. [ID:nN28229127]
"He is an iconic figure and deserved a more graceful
farewell," said Federico Garcia, 33, who works in retail.
"Here in Argentina, we love Maradona. I think the heads of
the AFA (Argentine Football Association) kicked him out in a
AFA's executive committee voted unanimously not to renew
Maradona's contract as coach on Tuesday, citing "unbridgeable
differences" with the former player, who led Argentina to World
Cup victory as captain in 1986. [ID:nN2742674]
A solemn Maradona retaliated the following day saying he had
been "betrayed" by soccer chiefs and that he had not been given
enough time to shine.
"You know that my cycle lasted only for one and a half
years. It was the shortest tenure in the past 35 years," he
In downtown Buenos Aires, many people said Maradona was
"stabbed in the back" and that he was not given a proper shot at
running the squad.
"He didn't do such a bad job as coach. We haven't been
beyond the quarter-finals in a World Cup since 1990, so I don't
think he did much worse than others given that the team was in
disarray when he took over,2 said Claudio Yago, 54, who owns a
Maradona rose to stardom from a Buenos Aires slum, but his
rags-to-riches story hit the rocks after he quit soccer in the
1990s and battled drug addiction, obesity and alcohol abuse.
His appointment as coach of the national team in late 2008
was a remarkable comeback, especially as he had little coaching
"To be coach of the national team, you have to work
seriously and that's not something Maradona's known for," said
geologist Eric Cayo, 33.
Argentina's shambolic World Cup qualifying campaign sent
alarm bells ringing for fans and critics alike, but convincing
victories in their first four games in South Africa propelled
the team into the list of tournament favorites.
Maradona's dreams of reliving World Cup glory as coach were
dashed when Germany beat them 4-0 in the quarter-finals.
But he was still given a hero's welcome at home and urged to
stay on by team members including World Player of the Year
Lionel Messi. Even President Cristina Fernandez said no one
deserved to suffer Maradona's abrupt exit from the job.
His die-hard fans say Maradona's history of beating the odds
make him the best coach Argentina could ever have.
"As a coach he lacks many things, but it doesn't matter
because he's "El Diego"," said Simon Lampa, a consultant for an
"I know there are much better coaches in Argentina, but who
cares? Maradona is an idol and he inspired the team, for
technical staff he had advisers."
(Editing by Helen Popper and Dave Thompson; To query or
comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org)