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I found happiness after hitting rock bottom: Maradona

world Updated: Mar 08, 2009 12:57 IST
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Footballer Diego Maradona has said that he feels happy after many years and wakes up "every day with renewed hope", excited about the life he is leading and enthusiastic about his role as head coach of Argentina's national soccer team.

"I had to reinvent myself, fight once again, get up every morning. I was dead, practically. Then I was the host of a television programme. I went out and gave lectures and told people they could get off drugs," Maradona told the TyC Sports channel's "Gol de medianoche" (Midnight Goal) programme.

Maradona was suspended as a player in 1991 after a test found cocaine in his system, but his drug problems became more severe after his retirement in 1997.

His health deteriorated due to cocaine addiction and obesity, with the soccer legend suffering a heart attack in 2000 and spending 10 days in intensive care in April 2004 with high-blood pressure and a lung infection.

In 2007, he underwent treatment for hepatitis linked to alcohol abuse, but said shortly afterward that he had entirely given up drinking and drugs.

Then late last year, Argentina's soccer authorities gambled that an apparently healthier and slimmed-down Maradona could lead his country back to the promised land yet again, this time as head coach.

"Sometimes I wake up at four in the morning and start putting line-ups together. 'Vero' (his girlfriend, Veronica Ojeda) can't believe it," he added.

"I'm going through a great moment. It's been years since I was this happy, this motivated, about a project. And the players keep me going. I've called (midfielder Fernando) Gago, (midfielder Javier) Mascherano, (goalkeeper Juan Pablo) Carrizo and they're all fired up" about Argentina's upcoming World Cup qualifying games against Venezuela and Bolivia March 28 and March 31.

Maradona, who was hired in November last year, noted that in two friendly matches since he took over, Argentina defeated Scotland 1-0 and France 2-0 and those results reminded him "of the professionalism of the Argentine players" and that gives him "a lot of peace of mind".

Maradona, 48, said the line-ups he has considered for the qualifying games "are all attack-oriented" and that he wants the team to win back the affection of the Argentine public.

"I see everything, I hear everything," he said, referring to his teammate on Argentina's 1986 World Cup winning squad, Jorge Valdano, who was quoted as saying at the time of his hiring that "it would be very risky to name Maradona coach".

"I'm angry at Valdano. He came out against my appointment. I thought he was a good person and he totally disappointed me. There are people who talk when there's no need to talk," he said.

Speaking of his grandson, Benjamin - the son of his daughter, Giannina Maradona, and Atletico de Madrid striker Sergio "Kun" Agüero - Maradona said he hopes the boy is "left-footed", adding that "he was born in Spain, but he's an Argentine".