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Argentina football loses its Hand of God

Argentina's football fans will have to get used to watching their team in action without their favourite legend on the sidelines.

sports Updated: Jul 29, 2010 01:06 IST
The Guardian
The Guardian

Argentina's football fans will have to get used to watching their team in action without their favourite legend on the sidelines.

During the World Cup, where Argentina were at the wrong end of a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Germany in the quarterfinals, the show that unfolded on the sidelines was often as rivetting as the action on the pitch.

In his trademark gray suit, Maradona's outbursts, both joyful and despairing, and his headline-making press conferences kept viewers coming back for more.

But, on Monday, Maradona's 18-month stint with the national team came to a sharp end after the Argentine Football Association's (AFA) executive committee unanimously agreed not to renew his contract.

Argentina's next game is a friendly against Ireland on 11 August in Dublin, and current under-20 boss Sergio Batista has been placed in temporary charge for that fixture.

Maradona met with AFA president Julio Grondona in a bid to resolve his future, with reports suggesting that a new four-year deal was on the table.

The 49-year-old, who took over as coach in October 2008, had said he would sign the contract as long as his entire backroom staff were retained.

Grondona revealed details of the talks to his board today and the AFA have confirmed they have decided not to renew Maradona's contract.

A brief statement on the AFA website read: "The president of the Argentinian Football Association, Mr Julio Grondona, made the members of the executive committee aware of the conversation with Mr Diego Maradona, setting out the points which had come out from the meeting.

"The executive committee resolved not to renew the contract with Mr Diego Maradona as coach of the Argentina national football team."

Grondona denied that Maradona had been sacked, but confirmed that differences over the make up of his staff led to a parting of ways.

"It is difficult to agree," Grondona said.

"The hardest difference to agree on was changing some of Diego's staff. Nobody has been sacked. A contract has not been extended because the conditions were not the suitable."

Among those the AFA were reportedly unhappy with was Alejandro Mancuso, Maradona's assistant and one of his closest friends. Grondona admitted the situation has left him disappointed.

"When you cannot agree with somebody you love, you are not happy at all. I always want to talk to him, but sometimes it is difficult because this is not the best moment."

Other AFA board members appeared less saddened by the situation.

General secretary Jose Luis Meiszner told cable channel C5N: "I would be hypocrite if I didn't admit there was a general disliking of several aspects of the cycle that ended with the World Cup. We did not see any intention to show humility, to say things should have been done better. There was no evaluation, no review, no conclusions. These are the things you have to think about in order to think about the future."

First Published: Jul 29, 2010 01:04 IST