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Diego Maradona’s new job in Mexico’s drug-cartel heartland

Diego Maradona has taken up his duties as coach of a Mexican second-division outfit. The World Cup winner as a player has had little success in coaching, and some see his appointment as a publicity stunt.Diego Maradona (pictured above) arrived in Culiacan, the capital of the northwestern Mexican state of Sinaloa, to a hero’s welcome on Saturday, and was to be officially unveiled and hold his first training session with his new club, Dorados de Sinaloa, later on Monday.

Six games into the Mexican second division season, Dorados are still without a win and find themselves languishing in 13th place in the 15-team Ascenso MX.

Still, the ever self-confident Maradona, decked out in a Dorados baseball cap and scarf, pledged upon his arrival to get the team into the top flight.

“The goal is to earn promotion to the first division, but this can’t be achieved without making sacrifices,” the 57-year-old Argentine told sports broadcaster ESPN.

However, few expect Maradona to be able to live up to that promise. His success since entering coaching in 1994 has been limited. He led Argentina to the quarterfinals in the 2010 World Cup before spending time at the club level with Al Wasl and Al-Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates.

Drug cartel stronghold

Maradona’s battles with drug abuse are also well documented, and his new club happens to be located in a state that is mainly known for being the home of the Sinaloa drug cartel. Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman operated the cartel until he was extradited to the United States in 2017, where his is to face trial on a number of criminal charges.

“We want Culiacan and Sinaloa to be talked about for other things,” said Jose Antonio Nunez, the president of Dorados.

But compounding concerns about Maradona’s coaching skills is the erratic behavior he displayed at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Attending matches as a spectator, he was captured on video having to be helped out of his seat and into a luxury box, or thrusting both middle fingers into the air as Argentina beat Nigeria.

Tom Marshall, who covers Mexican soccer for ESPN sports network, told the Associated Press that while the appointment will certainly help put the club on the map, of its fans fear it may simply be an “ego trip” for the owners.

World Cup memories

Maradona’s new job marks a return to the country where he celebrated his greatest footballing triumph, scoring five goals to lead Argentina to the 1986 World Cup title. It was during this run that he scored one of the most controversial goals in World Cup history, his “hand of God” goal against England in the quarterfinals. However, he followed that up a few minutes later with a solo run past several England players to score the winner, a goal that has been dubbed the “goal of the century.”

pfd/dv (AP, dpa)

Topics: Diego Maradona

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