BUENOS AIRES - Diego Maradona could
decide his future on Wednesday when he is expected to meet
Argentine Football Association (AFA) president Julio Grondona
where he would be offered a four-year contract, the AFA said.
As he walked off the pitch after Argentina's crushing
quarter-final World Cup exit, Maradona hinted that it was time
for him to quit as national coach. His jubilant welcome home
might have made him think twice.
In stark contrast to the frosty reception given to coaches
from Brazil and England after their disappointing early exits,
Maradona got a hero's welcome despite a 4-0 loss to Germany.
More than 20,000 fans greeted him at Buenos Aires airport,
a lawmaker proposed a statue in his honour and he was urged to
stay on by President Cristina Fernandez, who took over
broadcast rights to football games last year.
"Hang in there Maradona," Fernandez said last week in a
speech to supporters. "No Argentine has given us so much
happiness on the football field as Diego Maradona."
During the World Cup, pundits hailed Argentina's attacking
style, the majestic dribbling of Lionel Messi and the striking
force of Carlos Tevez and Gonzalo Higuain.
It was Maradona who stole the limelight, however, prowling
the sidelines in a shiny, grey suit and inspiring hope that he
could again propel Argentina to success in football's most
coveted trophy, this time as coach.
Maradona has been keeping a low profile since returning
from South Africa, staying at his home to reflect on the loss
away from the glare of media and fans.
AFA spokesman Ernesto Cherquis Bialo, who helped to write
Maradona's autobiography, said the decision was down to
"If Maradona wants to...he will continue. People have
unconditional support for Maradona; other coaches who made the
same mistake as him (losing in the quarter-finals), have had to
Later on Wednesday, Cherquis Bialo told reporters Maradona
would be formally offered to stay on until 2014 and specified
there was no "Plan B" in place should the famed player and
coach decide not to continue.
AFA President Julio Grondona is expected to meet Maradona
to discuss the offer before next Wednesday.
A close friend said Maradona has been feeling down since
the World Cup defeat despite receiving the support of players
including Gabriel Heinze, captain Javier Mascherano and Messi.
"He's dealing with the blow in his own way," the friend
said, asking not to be named. "He's always said he wanted to be
the team's coach for the rest of his life, but you always have
to consider whether it makes sense."
Maradona struggled with drug addiction, obesity and
alcoholism for years, making his comeback at the helm of the
national squad an even more remarkable personal achievement.
Whether or not he takes the reins of the team for the Copa
America later in July or retires to spend time with his family,
fans who remember his genius as a player and patchy results as
coach are likely to stay loyal.
"I wanted him to be champion again because he deserved it,"
Alberto Blanco, 39, said in front of a giant Maradona
inflatable set up in the centre of Buenos Aires,
"I know he's not the best coach but the team also needs
courage and heart and mystique, and he offered that to his
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