Maradona Hits Back, says he was Cheated and Lied to

Buenos Aires, July 29 (DPA) Diego Maradona broke his silence Thursday, a day after he was sacked as Argentina's national coach, saying he was betrayed and lied to.

In a scathing attack, he said that the chief of the Argentine football association (AFA), Julio Grondona, and co-coach Carlos Bilardo lied to him and cheated him. He made a brief statement to journalists here.

The AFA announced late Tuesday that Maradona's contract as national coach would not be renewed.

AFA spokesman Cherquis Bialo announced the coach's departure after talks Monday between Maradona and Grondona failed to produce an extension for a contract that expires on Saturday.

The AFA could not accept the conditions that Maradona had set before he would sign a contract extension to remain at the helm of the national team through the 2014 World Cup in neighbouring Brazil, Bialo said.

A legendary striker who led Argentina to a world championship in 1986, the 49-year-old Maradona coached a team that struggled to qualify for the 2010 World Cup.

Once in South Africa, though, Argentina raised expectations by running overshod in the group stage with three straight wins. They followed with a 3-1 victory over Mexico in the Round of 16 before being knocked out in Cape Town with a 0-4 humiliation against Germany.

Maradona, who read from a prepared sheet Wednesday, said that Grondona lied to him at the World Cup. After the defeat against Germany, Grondona told him in the changing room in South Africa in front of witnesses, that he would remain coach, Maradona said.

But things changed after the team returned home, Maradona claimed, and he was told that seven of his assistant coaches would have to be replaced.

Maradona also lashed out at Bilardo, saying that "while we were mourning (our elimination at the World Cup), he worked in the shadows to make sure that I was kicked out."


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