BUENOS AIRES (XINHUA) – Diego Maradona (pic below) said on Saturday he is eager to return to work as head coach of Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata and hailed his “beautiful” relationship with the club’s fans.
Argentinian football has been suspended since March 16 amid the global COVID-19 pandemic and officials have yet to indicate when local competitions might resume.
“It is a strange situation that we are in here and all over the world,” Maradona said in an interview with newspaper El Dia de La Plata.
“I’m looking forward to returning to Estancia Chica (Gimnasia’s training ground) to work with my boys again. It will be like when you see your girlfriend after a vacation,” the 1986 FIFA World Cup winner added.
Maradona compared Gimnasia’s supporters to those of Napoli, whom he famously represented as a player from 1984 to 1991.
“I have a beautiful relationship with the fans. They remind me of Napoli’s supporters because of their passion and loyalty,” added Maradona, who led the club from southern Italy to two Serie A titles, a Coppa Italia and a UEFA Cup.
Maradona took charge of Gimnasia last September when they were mired at the foot of the Argentinian Superliga standings with just one draw and four losses. However, the club improved markedly under Maradona, jumping five places in the 24-team Superliga standings to finish the season with six wins, six draws and 12 losses.
Despite their recovery, Gimnasia remain in danger of dropping to Argentina’s second tier under the country’s complex promotion-relegation system, which considers results over a three-year cycle. The fate of Maradona’s men rests with their performances in the Superliga Cup, which was halted after just one week.
Maradona said he is in regular contact with his players and declined to comment on reports that the Argentine Football Association (AFA) might suspend its promotion-relegation system this year.
“With the work we were doing, I had no doubt that we were going to get out of the relegation zone,” the 59-year said. “We still have to wait and see what measures the AFA will take. We will work hard to make sure that we’re prepared for any possible scenario.”