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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Coach Maradona fired by Dubai club after poor results


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Diego Maradona was fired as coach of Al Wasl on Tuesday after a season in which the soccer club finished in eighth place in a 12-team league and even failed to win a second-tier competition.

News photo
Time up: Argentine legend Diego Maradona was fired as coach of Dubai club Al Wasl on Tuesday. AP

The former Argentine great had one year left on his contract. The club's board of directors met Tuesday and released a statement, saying it had "decided to terminate his services and his technical staff." A successor was not announced.

Maradona was on vacation outside Dubai and could not be reached for comment.

Expectations were great when Maradona arrived in Dubai on a two-year deal in May 2011. He was popular with fans and helped put United Arab Emirates soccer on the map, but his team did not qualify for next season's Asian Champions League or win any domestic titles.

"I was supposed to come here and meant to work and work hard and achieve something," Maradona said at a news conference this year. "It's not about Maradona coming here and rating him as being success or unsuccessful. My intention was not to come here and have an easygoing time and spend it on the beach. I'm very happy to be here. It's a good chance for me. I believe in living in the moment."

The final straw appears to have been the team's failure in the GCC Champions League at the end of the season after winning the first leg of the final against Bahrain's Al Muharraq 3-1.

Al Wasl returned home and it was expected Maradona would win his first trophy as club manager. Team president Sheik Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, a brother of the Dubai ruler, even turned up for the first time this season to join the anticipated celebration.

But the Bahraini club won the match 3-1 against nine-man Al Wasl. Two players on the Dubai club, including the goalkeeper, were ejected for head-butting opponents. With the teams tied on total goals, Al Muharraq won the title 5-4 on penalty kicks.

The loss led to the board of directors resigning, fueling speculation Maradona would quit. Among those who left was Marwan bin Bayat, who was instrumental in signing Maradona. New board chairman Mohammad Ahmad bin Fahad had to dismiss as a "mistake" reports last month that Maradona resigned.

Maradona starred on Argentina's 1986 World Cup-winning team. He joined Al Wasl following his firing as the national coach of Argentina, where he had mixed results.

Terry takes witness stand


LONDON — Chelsea captain John Terry staunchly defended himself on the witness stand Tuesday, denying prosecutors' suggestions that he racially abused a black opponent as an "instinctive" reaction to being taunted over his private life.

The veteran defender also refused to apologize to Anton Ferdinand as he took the stand on the second day of his trial for an alleged racist slur hurled at the Queens Park Rangers player last October, which led to Terry being stripped of the England captaincy.

Terry and Ferdinand had traded insults after a disputed penalty call in the west London derby, with the Chelsea star claiming he was goaded about an alleged affair with the former girlfriend of an ex-teammate.

"The truth of the matter is you are not a racist . . . you used racial language that day because you snapped and it was instinctive," prosecutor Duncan Penny suggested to Terry. "You were fed up with people abusing you over the issue with your wife."

Terry, however, responded that "it was almost two years on and I had heard it a million times before."

"If I was going to snap, I would have snapped long before," he said.

The alleged affair led to Terry being stripped of the England captaincy by coach Fabio Capello ahead of the 2010 World Cup. Capello then restored Terry as captain but quit in February when the Football Association took away the armband from the defender against the Italian coach's wishes.

In Westminster Magistrates' Court, Terry hardly resembled the commanding figure seen just two weeks ago on the field at the European Championship, where his orders boomed from the heart of England's defense.

Terry's voice was reduced to almost a whisper Tuesday, standing with his hands clasped in front of him while being quizzed by Penny as video footage of the alleged incident was replayed on screens in the court room.

Terry denied Penny's suggestion that his "blood was up" with Chelsea surprisingly losing 1-0 to QPR at Loftus Road.

Terry was pushed on whether he had ever considered apologizing to Ferdinand.

"Why would I apologize to Anton when he is the one who accused me?" Terry responded. "What I said was in response to what Anton said to me."

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