Controversial and combative as ever, Diego Maradona made his Mexican coaching debut Monday with a 4-1 win for his new club, the second-division side Dorados.
Alternately grinning and defensive, the Argentine took a chance to hit out at his critics after Ecuadoran forward Vinicio Angulo scored a hat trick to give Dorados the win over Cafeteleros of Tapachula.
“Some people said Maradona’s useless. There were a lot of stupid people going on television to fill up the time,” Maradona told a packed post-match press conference in Culiacan, Sinaloa, his new club’s home base.
“I hope they’ll come to the pitch now and look at my record and see what we’re actually doing, see that I know how to do this.”
The former Argentina manager, who has also coached Al Wasl and Fujairah in the UAE, vowed it was just the beginning for the struggling club, who leapt from 13th place in their 15-team league to 10th with the win over last-place Cafeteleros.
But not all Dorados fans are convinced.
Maradona arrived to a hero’s welcome last week, but there have been questions over whether he is the right man for the job.
“I’m not expecting much. Maradona has never shown himself to be a good coach. I think there are better coaches than him in Mexico,” said Kevin Juarez, a 26-year-old fan, ahead of the match.
“The one good thing is that Maradona’s arrival has drawn the world’s attention to Dorados,” he told AFP.
Maradona once coached the Argentine national team, including at the 2010 World Cup, but the rest of his managerial career has lacked the sparkle of his playing days.
Other fans in Sinaloa are more optimistic.
“With Maradona’s help, this club can gain a little character and get promoted,” said fellow fan Hector Cuen, 40.
“I can’t see anything bad in Maradona coming to Culiacan.”
Even El Diego only managed to fill Dorados’s 20,000-seat stadium to about half capacity – though that was still more than double the average attendance at the club’s most recent home matches.
Maradona, however, was unfazed by the empty seats. “Dorados fans are amazing,” he said.