Diego Maradona, whose contract as coach of Argentina’s national team wasn’t renewed, said soccer officials lied and betrayed him.
Maradona, who guided his country to the World Cup quarterfinals this month, said yesterday that he was “lied to” by Argentine Football Association President Julio Grondona and had been “betrayed” by national team manager Carlos Bilardo.
“All my team and I were ready to continue,” Maradona, 49, told reporters on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. “They called me to put out a fire and we put it out. I’ve given everything.”
The association’s executive committee “unanimously resolved” not to extend his deal two days ago because Maradona rejected requests to change his aides, committee member Rafael Savino said. Maradona told Argentine television this week that he wouldn’t continue in the post he took in late 2008 if the association insisted on changes to his staff.
“I feel sorry for Maradona,” Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner told reporters in Buenos Aires last night after the fired coach’s statements.
“I stand by all my people, from the masseuse to the equipment man,” Maradona said yesterday, reading from a prepared statement. His staff included two doctors, two assistant coaches, two physical trainers, a press officer and an equipment manager, among others.
Maradona said that Grondona told him after the World Cup quarterfinal loss to Germany on July 3 that he wanted him to continue. When the pair met three days ago, Grondona said that seven of his aides had to leave, according to Maradona, who was voted best player of the 1986 tournament.
“By telling me that, he was in fact telling me that he didn’t want me to stay,” Maradona said. “He knows that it would have been impossible for me to continue if my aides wouldn’t continue.”
Grondona walked “up to me in the dressing room after the Germany defeat, embraced me and told me he was happy with our job,” Maradona said in his statement yesterday.
Speaking to reporters, Grondona said last night that it wasn’t his intention to force Maradona out with the requests of changes.
“I don’t see that there’s been any kind of betrayal,” Grondona said. “He believes that changes to improve things signify betrayal.”
During his radio show last night, Bilardo said he has always supported Maradona.
“How did I betray him?” Bilardo said. “I’ve always defended Maradona to the death.”
Association spokesman Ernesto Cherquis Bialo didn’t return a telephone call from Bloomberg seeking comment.
Maradona, who led Argentina to its last World Cup title in 1986 and the final four years later, took over the national team in November 2008. He used more than 100 players, winning 18 and losing six of his 24 international games in charge.
Argentina lost six matches in 2009, the first time since 1919 that it had so many defeats in a calendar year. Maradona didn’t oversee that year’s loss to Catalonia because he was banned for a profanity-laced tirade toward journalists following a World Cup qualifying game.
In South Africa, Argentina exited in a 4-0 defeat to Germany that was its most lopsided World Cup loss in 36 years.
Maradona’s team finished fifth at the tournament, according to soccer governing body FIFA, Argentina’s best result since losing in the 1990 final.
Sergio Batista, the coach of Argentina’s under-20 team, will lead the senior squad in its next match, an Aug. 11 exhibition against Ireland. Batista played with Maradona at the 1986 World Cup and coached Argentina to the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Bilardo, who coached Argentina at the 1986 and 1990 World Cups, will continue in his role, Cherquis Bialo said two days ago. Bilardo took the position when Maradona was named coach in 2008. Last year, Bilardo told reporters he would quit if Maradona left the national team.
Argentina is scheduled to host next year’s Copa America as it seeks a first major trophy at the senior level since 1993.