Maradona rejected in bid to help Argentina's Rio squad

BUENOS AIRES • Diego Maradona's attempts to help sort out the crisis engulfing Argentina's Olympic football team "went backwards" on Wednesday, when the legendary former player was told clearly by those in power that he was not needed.

The 1986 World Cup winner went to the Argentinian Football Association (AFA) headquarters in Buenos Aires expecting to provide solutions after doubts surfaced over the team's participation in next month's Rio Olympics.

On Monday, Gerardo Werthein, the president of the Argentinian Olympic Committee, had warned that there was a 50-50 chance the country would not have a men's Olympic football team in Rio because the Argentinian clubs had failed to authorise the release of their players.

And national team coach Gerardo Martino quit on Tuesday citing lack of support from the AFA and his inability to train the Olympic squad properly because some key players were not available.

Maradona, 55, had hoped to join the team's coaching staff.

But the AFA not only appointed Under-20s coach Julio Olarticoechea to take charge of the Olympic squad on a temporary basis, but acting head Luis Segura also insisted there was currently "no candidate (to be permanent coach) and Maradona is not there to be Olarticoechea's assistant".

A visibly furious Maradona stormed out of the AFA headquarters and said: "I am angry. It hurts me in my soul. The meeting went backwards. I do not agree with a lot of things they want to do."

The AFA is currently under Fifa investigation and has been in turmoil since its former president Julio Grondona died in 2014.

The world governing body stepped in last month and took control from the current leadership and named an emergency panel to manage its affairs.

Fifa has said that the "normalisation committee" of up to seven members "will be in charge of running the daily affairs" of the AFA and that elections must be organised by July next year.

Maradona said: "We continue to be in the same mafia as under Grondona. There are even paintings of him there."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2016, with the headline 'Maradona rejected in bid to help Argentina's Rio squad'. Print Edition | Subscribe