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Friday, July 30, 2010

Maradona rips Argentine federation over dismissal

BUENOS AIRES (AP) An emotional Diego Maradona, looking to be close to tears, said he was betrayed as Argentina coach by national team director Carlos Bilardo and lied to by Julio Grondona, the president of the Argentine Football Association.

News photo
Lashing out: Diego Maradona blasted Argentine Football Association officials on Wednesday, a day after he was dismissed as coach of the national team. AP PHOTO

Speaking one day after the Argentine Football Association declined to renew his contract, Maradona claimed Wednesday that Bilardo worked deviously to get rid of him and that Grondona had previously said he was happy with his work.

Argentina was beaten 4-0 by Germany in the World Cup quarterfinals in South Africa.

"They called me to put out a fire, and we put it out," Maradona said. "Grondona lied to me. Bilardo betrayed me. While we were still in mourning (the loss to Germany), Bilardo worked in the shadows to throw me out.

"My technical team and I were prepared to keep going," he added. "Grondona, in the changing room in South Africa, said in front of witnesses that he was very happy with my work and wanted me to continue. But back in Argentina things started to change."

Bilardo was the coach of Argentina and Maradona its star player when the team won the World Cup in 1986.

The AFA had said several weeks ago that it planned to offer him a new four-year deal, and Maradona said Grondona asked him in a meeting Monday to continue but without seven of his assistants. Maradona said he could not meet those conditions.

Grondona, replying after Maradona spoke, said he had not lied to the famous No. 10.

Maradona read from a prepared script for about 10 minutes in a restaurant in the Buenos Aires suburb of Ezeiza.

Ohigashi focused KYODO Newly appointed J. League chairman Kazumi Ohigashi hopes to respond to expectations after beginning his new job on Thursday.

Ohigashi, former president of Kashima Antlers, was appointed the league's new head after earlier this month succeeding Kenji Onitake, who stepped down after completing his two-year term.

"I feel that I am faced with big expectations. I want to do my job with zest and cheerfulness," Ohigashi told reporters.

Ohigashi, a former member of the national rugby team, became the president of Kashima in 2006 and supported the team's run to an unprecedented three consecutive J. League crowns in 2007-09.

The new chairman needs to tackle issues such as the disappointing showing by Japanese clubs in the Asian Champions League, and the reconstruction of financially troubled second-division clubs Tokyo Verdy and Oita Trinita.

"There are gaps between the clubs and the problems they face are not always the same," he said. "I want to make improvements the whole way through the league."

Australia makes bid

KUALA LUMPUR (AP) Australia has officially handed over its bid book to host the 2015 Asian Cup — an event for which it is so far the only bidder.

Football Federation of Australian chairman Frank Lowy and chief executive Ben Buckley were on hand to present the bid documents to Asian Football Confederation president Mohammed Bin Hammam on Thursday.

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