Maradona blasts FIFA 'dinosaurs'

DUBAI - Diego Maradona branded FIFA bosses 'dinosaurs' on Saturday and said the world football body was run by men who did not understand the game and were intent on clinging to power.

The Argentine great, appearing at his first news conference as coach of United Arab Emirates' side Al Wasl, was dismissive of this week's unopposed re-election of 75-year-old Sepp Blatter as FIFA president for another four years.

"Everything will be the same... FIFA is a big museum and they are dinosaurs who do not want to give up power," said the man who coached his country to the quarter-finals of last year's World Cup in South Africa.

"I'm not surprised Blatter was re-elected because they look after themselves. They will stay until they are 105 years old," he added. "I hope they will resign but don't be under any illusions that they will.

"I have been asked to be part of the FIFA family but I said it is not a family if no-one plays football," said Maradona.

"Many people agree with me that many things are not clear in football these days and it is not something people who watch football deserve. The situation will be the same while football is run by people who do not understand football."

Blatter was re-elected to a fourth and final mandate after his Qatari opponent Mohamed Bin Hammam withdrew from the race amid cash-for-votes allegations.


Maradona flew in to Dubai late on Friday to sign a two-year contract with Al Wasl, a side that has won seven national titles but none since 2007.

Saturday's news conference at a five-star hotel on the Palm Jumeirah, a man-made island in the shape of a palm tree off the coast of Dubai, was attended by around 100 reporters and more than 20 television crews.

Those numbers, with journalists from as far afield as Spain and Japan, contrasted with the usual handful of media in attendance for most matches in the 12-team national league.

Al Wasl's average home crowd at league matches this season is 3,360, with fewer than 1,000 at three of their home matches.

Maradona is due to watch his new team in action on Sunday night when they play Sharjah as part of the final round of matches, before taking charge ahead of the new season which begins in September.

Al Wasl are fifth in the 12-team Etisalat Pro League. The top four sides qualify for next year's Asian Football Confederation Champions League.

The UAE league has been regarded as something of a final stop before retirement for some of the world's top players.

Liberia's former World Footballer of the Year George Weah played for this year's champions Al Jazira from 2001-2003, while former Italy World Cup captain Fabio Cannavaro is currently playing for Al Ahli.

Each side can select three foreign players in their line-ups and Maradona said he did not want anyone past his best.

"I don't want old players. We are not here as a graveyard for white elephants," he said.

"I want a team that can beat anyone and for that we need a team that is in good condition, not with those about to retire. When a player comes here, he comes here to run."