Diego Maradona came to the United Arab Emirates with huge aspirations and huge fanfare. Maradona, who came to the UAE after being fired as coach of Argentina, put football on the world map for this small country in the Middle East.
His first season came with mixed results. Al Wasl started the season strong, going 3-1-2 over their first six matches to be second in the league standings. However, after winning that first match against Al Sarjah Soccer Club, Maradona was forced to apologize after disrespecting a fan by kicking his hand. Sure, the fan was being annoying, but that still does not excuse his actions.
Then, things started to go downhill for the club. Al Wasl would go just 4-9-3 to end the season, putting them well out of reach for competing for a cup.
Things picked back up during the 2012 GCC Champions League competition, advancing all the way to the championship leg. They won the first leg on the road 3-1, but inexplicably lost 3-1 at home, with two players being sent off for head-butting opponents Zinedine Zidane style. The club would go on to lose in penalty kicks 5-4, ending the first season without a trophy for Maradona.
Was it really Maradona’s fault though?
How can a coach change expect to turn around a team in just one short year? Sure, they may not have done as well as expected, but that does not mean he deserved to be fired. How many years do most coaches get? Two? Three? Four?
So after just a single season, Maradona got the sack. He put UAE football on the map and in turn, never quite lived up to the hype. But did he deserve more time than just a single season?