Soccer

Maradona turns 50, 'mourns'

2010-10-30 15:57
Diego Maradona (AP)

Buenos Aires - Diego Maradona turned 50 on Saturday with little fanfare, calling it the "saddest birthday of my life."

Despite some pressure from his family, the former Argentina coach said he intended to spend the day quietly at his home in the Buenos Aires suburb of Ezeiza.

It has been a difficult year for the famous No. 10, who led Argentina into the World Cup only to be ousted by Germany in a humiliating 4-0 loss in the quarter-finals. The loss led the Argentina Football Association to drop him as coach. Interim coach Sergio Batista - Maradona's team-mate on the Argentina's World-Cup-winning team in 1986 - is expected to be confirmed on Tuesday as Maradona's replacement.

"It is the saddest birthday of my life," Maradona said in an interview with the sports daily Ole. "One that I don't wish to celebrate."

It has been three months since the AFA declined to renew Maradona's contract. The AFA was willing to have Maradona back, but not most of his assistants. Maradona refused to budge, and the AFA let him go.

"The best gift would have been (continuing with) the national team," Maradona said. "When we were knocked out of the World Cup I began my mourning period."

Since being released, Maradona has recanted and said he might be willing to return without his assistants. The plea has fallen on deaf ears.

Similar to his playing career, his almost-two-year stint as coach had many ups and downs.

Argentina won 18 of 24 games with Maradona as coach. But several of the losses were the worst in history. One was a 6-1 hammering by Bolivia in a World Cup qualifier and the other was the lopsided loss to Germany in South Africa.

Maradona has made few appearances since the World Cup.

The latest was Thursday when he attended the funeral at the presidential palace in Buenos Aires for former president Nestor Kirchner.

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