Dubai, Jan 4: Diego Maradona accused United Arab Emirates football officials of targeting his club, calling the penalties he and his team are facing “excessive.”
Maradona, who took over as Al Wasl coach in May, has been fined for criticizing a rival coach and his team has been banned from playing two matches at home due to fan trouble.
“I do feel Al Wasl are being targeted with these excessive bans and punishments,” Maradona said. “A fine would have sufficed but a stadium closure and moving our next two games is very excessive.
“I have never seen a team other than us get punished this way. It saddens me. In other leagues, what the fans did will be considered a beautiful way of cheering and celebrating. In my opinion, I did not see anything wrong with the fans behavior that deserves such a penalty. Maybe the person who made that judgment was watching a different match.”
Yousuf al-Serkal, the acting president of the UAE FA, said Maradona has been a welcome addition the league and that he has made Al Wasl a better club.
But he insisted than no one was singling out the 1986 World Cup-winning Argentine or his club for punishment.
“When it comes to punishment of disciplinary committee, we have no influence over the committee. If they considered what Maradona did is worth taking disciplinary action, we have to respect that,” al-Serkal said Wednesday. “If Maradona thinks it's not fair, we have an appeals committee. He can appeal the decision.”
Maradona has had a running feud with critics and referees since he arrived last year.
The Argentine football great intensified his complaints late Tuesday when he spoke for the first time about the $2,450 fine he was given by the UAE Football Association and the home match ban after toilet paper thrown by fans hit a match official.
Al Wasl is in sixth place in the 12-team league, 11 points behind the leaders.
Maradona's team hasn't won in four matches and he said that he and his staff are doing their best “to bring back the motivation and passion” following the recent loss to Al Wahda. He also is trying to reduce the expectations of fans.
“Being realistic, we may not be able to challenge for this year's title anymore,” Maradona said.
“But for sure, we are building a team to challenge for the title next year. Our ambitions remain but our short term goals have changed.”