Diego Maradona has travelled from the mountaintop to the water’s edge. The man who used to be the greatest soccer player on Earth has taken work as manager of a second-division team in the United Arab Emirates (Fifa country rank: #75).
The team is Fujairah and they are located in the city of the same name on the country’s Indian Ocean coast, which is less torrentially hot than the Gulf coast to the west. Dubai, where Maradona resides, is about an hour’s drive away.
How did Maradona end up here?
Perhaps it is his strengths that have turned against him. He was always creative — the rules were for other players. He played with his heart more than his head. His most important goal was one on which he cheated — and for it he was lionised. It was at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico City that he blatantly used his hand to punch home a goal against England, saying afterwards that it was scored “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God.” But the refs didn’t notice, and Argentina went on to win the tournament.
Creativity and rule-breaking might work on the football pitch, but not so much as a precept in planning one’s career. And so he has passed through more storylines than Homer Simpson (and gained the latter’s girth). He has hosted a talk show, written a book, taken part in fundraisers, coached at the club and national level (but never in one place for long), battled drug abuse, hung out with Fidel Castro, and piled up debts (he owes the Italian government tens of millions of euros in unpaid tax from his days playing for Napoli).
At a press conference in Fujairah on May 14, the new manager was typically dramatic: “I will work very strongly, and for those who think they can beat Fujairah or Maradona, I will make this task impossible for everyone, because mentally we are very strong. This is now my house,”
Now 56 years old, Maradona is like many people who are still searching for their place in a changing world. And so he is part of the great expat tide pulled along by the eastward tilt of the global economy, and he finds himself in Fujairah. What was true of him in play is also true of him at work: his feet never stop moving.