It marks one of the most extraordinary developments in UAE sport, a moment that carried Emirati football beyond its borders and to the world. Ten years ago, in May 2011, Diego Maradona was announced as the new manager of Al Wasl, a Dubai-based club fourth in the nascent UAE Pro League.
The previous summer, Maradona had coached Argentina at the World Cup in South Africa, aiming to lead his country to football’s greatest prize, just as he did most famously as a player in 1986. Now he was appointed head coach at Wasl, a decorated club in the UAE top flight but without a trophy in four seasons.
Maradona signed a two-year contract, promising to restore his new employers to former glory. It did not quite work out that way, but Fifa’s joint player of the century would go on to make Dubai his home for the best part of the next decade.
To commemorate that remarkable period, The National has created a podcast series entitled “Diego Maradona: The Dubai Years”, with insight from some of the people who knew best the colourful Argentine during his time here.
In Episode 1, hosts Paul Radley and John McAuley detail the whirlwind moment Maradona was considered as Wasl manager, what it meant for UAE football, his arrival in the Emirates, and that first press conference in which the World Cup winner set the stage for what became a rollercoaster ride of emotions.
Subscribe to this five-part special to hear the story in full.
Produced by Ayesha Khan and Arthur Eddyson.