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Maradona hits back with fury

sports Updated: Jul 30, 2010 01:17 IST

Reuters
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Diego Maradona accused Argentine soccer chiefs of betraying him on Wednesday, a day after they voted unanimously to sack him as national team coach.

The Argentine Football Association (AFA) decided not to renew Maradona's contract following the team's 4-0 drubbing by Germany in the World Cup quarter-finals.

In his first public comments since the defeat, Maradona took aim at AFA President Julio Grondona and the technical director of national teams, Carlos Bilardo.

"Grondona lied to me, Bilardo betrayed me," a sombre Maradona spoke reading from a prepared statement.

"He told me in the changing room after we were eliminated in South Africa that he was very pleased with the work I'd done and he wanted me to stay on," he said.

"When we were in mourning, Bilardo worked in the shadows to kick me out."

After convincing wins in their opening World Cup games, Argentina became one of the tournament's favourites, but Maradona's dreams of lifting soccer's most-coveted prize as coach were dashed by the Germans.

"They called me to put out a fire and then when I did, this happens," he said, adding that he had taken over the team during a time of crisis and had been dropped before being able to finish the job.

He said he wanted to continue as coach but that during a meeting with Grondona, the AFA head had asked him to replace seven members of his coaching staff.

"He knows it's impossible for me to continue without my coaching staff, Maradona said.

"I've given my all for the Argentine soccer shirt ... to wear this shirt again... And I'm convinced that the players felt this again ... maybe that was my job," he said.

Grondona said he had asked Maradona to stay, but said changes had to be made among the coach's staff team.

"I can't see how there was a betrayal of any kind," Grondona told reporters.

"Perhaps he sees betrayal as trying to make things better. ... the only thing I was looking for was to make a change, not to get rid of Maradona."