Dubai: Describing Dubai as his second home, Argentine icon Diego Maradona also said on Tuesday he was thrilled to be hired for another year in his role as global ambassador for the sports-mad, Persian Gulf city.
Maradona was hired last year as ambassador by the Dubai Sports Council soon after he was sacked as the coach of Dubai-based club Al Wasl after only one season. The council said it will extend his contract for another year but offered no details on how much it will pay the football great.Also, council secretary general Ahmed al-Sharif said Maradona will oversee football academies in the city aimed at raising the quality of football across the United Arab Emirates.
"Diego Maradona ... since the past one year, he has brought in so much added value to Dubai on and off the sports field," al-Sharif said. "Dubai has been the best and busiest sporting destination in the Middle East."
Maradona has talked of returning to coaching and has been linked to clubs in China and the national side in Iraq during the past year. But with no offers forthcoming, the star of the 1986 World Cup-winning team will continue his low-key ambassadorial job. He said he was happy to help raise the profile of football in the UAE and produce the next generation.
"There is no doubt I'm very happy with my job," said Maradona, recently back from a trip to Indonesia. "We have very nice projects for young people between 12 and 16. I want to give them good information and we want to make a football school where we can teach about things on and off the pitch."
Maradona said much more needs to be done for the national side to be successful on the international stage.
"Passion and love of football is very important. It is lacking in the United Arab Emirates," he said. "The national team are doing well and have very good, excellent skills. But we have to add that sense of passion to football."