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Maradona King & I

I am the King. I mean, the King of football in Argentina, and the King can never work under another person, says the legend.

india Updated: Jun 09, 2006 11:55 IST
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Mohammed Nabil Naiim Doha Money is harming football, the players and the entertainment value of the game itself. This is the conclusion of Diego Maradona, the man who is claimant to the throne of the best football player of all time.

Excerpts:

What differences do you see between football of your time and present?

In my time we played to win and make history. Money was a background factor, because we loved football more than anything else. In our times the money was in the bank. Nowadays the money goes straight to the players' pockets. Because of this the game has changed and today making money is more important than offering a good game to the public.

Do you support the introduction of technology into football?

I support it if technology helps the referee to make a correct decision. However, I don't believe in the complete takeover of technology. Technology can help officials verify unsporting conduct of players, in case the referee doesn't notice it.

How are your relations with Fidel Castro and what are your feelings with regard to Che Guevara?

Both have made an impression on me because both fought against dictatorship and the United States. In addition Castro helped me a lot in my recovery from drug addiction and I will never forget that. I made a great mistake in falling into the world of drugs - now I know how grave that mistake was.

All football players, are also entertainment stars and must consider carefully how they behave, because they are idols for so many people. I changed my life thanks to my daughters, and you cannot imagine how happy I am now being with my family.

Several times I was on the brink of death as a result of the madness of drugs. I can only advice everybody to stay away from them.

And how do you see the role of the mass media in the development of football?

Sometimes the media seeks to create problems in order to make financial benefits. During my addiction, the media condemned me, held me up to be a monster and a bad example for the youth. But this is not right. The role of the media is to tell people the truth, not to speak defame people.

What are your plans for the future?

I want to work with children and share my experiences with them. My wish is to train the Argentinian team, but the time is not yet ripe for something like that.

Let us return to the past. Was it correct what you did when you scored the first goal against England in Mexico in 1986, the 'Hand of God'?

No, it wasn't. It was the 'Hand of God' because God wanted it and because the referee did not see it.

The Argentinian Football Association (AFA) offered to incorporate you into the coaching body, to be Jose Pekerman's right- hand man. Why did you reject the offer?

The trainer of the Argentinian team, Jose Pekerman, is a good trainer, and to work with him would make anybody happy. But I am the king. I mean, the king of football in Argentina, and the king can never work under another person.

How could I then work under the direction of Pekerman? Of course I would like to train the Argentinian squad - but as technical director, choosing whoever I want to help me.

Will Argentina win in Germany?

I would say that the European teams have the best chance of winning the World Cup. Whenever the World Cup takes place in Europe, a European team almost always wins. France won in France in 1998, Germany in Italy '90 and Italy in Spain' 82.

South American teams took the title when the competition was played outside of Europe. For that reason I believe that England, Italy and France would be my favourites.

You accused Havelange (former FIFA boss) of having manipulated the World Cup draw in 1990.

Yes, that time FIFA falsified the draw. Everything was set up beforehand and the draw was only show. Havelange made me pay for that in the final against Germany.

The result was not totally correct; we lost by the black hand of the Mexican referee (Edgardo Codesal), who followed the orders of his boss Havelange exactly. But we had to respect the result because the referee is the head as far as decisions are concerned.

You cried then?

Yes, that time I cried a lot, because I felt we had been treated unjustly and that Havelange had made us pay, and the draw was not the only thing which had been manipulated.

Although we must admit that we were no better than the Germans, we did not deserve to lose that way. Nobody wants to see corrupt referees on the pitch. But the blight has been spreading lately, in Germany and Brazil. Good refereeing makes the game better and gives the player a feeling of security.

Could your relationship with Castro help you to someday develop a great political career in your own country?

To work in politics in Argentina is a waste of time. You lose the respect of the fans.

First Published: Jun 09, 2006 11:55 IST