53-year-old Argentinian football legend Diego Maradona has set off a social media storm in Pakistan after accusing the Argentine Football Association (AFA) of “understanding as much about football as Pakistan does.”
Despite his on-field success, including a 1986 World Cup championship as captain of the Argentinian national team, Maradona has had a disappointing coaching career. He was sacked as the national team's coach in 2010, a few weeks after the team was handed a spectacular defeat against Germany in the World Cup quarterfinals. The AFA had offered to renew Maradona's contract, but only if some of his staff was replaced. He refused.
It appears Maradona still hasn't forgiven AFA officials for the bitter falling-out, and used Pakistan to hit at his former employers. In a recent interview with German sports magazine Sport Bild, he said, “They don’t have a clue at all. To clarify: There are certainly many good things in Pakistan, but I have never seen them play a World Cup final. I say: The current association leaders in Argentina are the same as Pakistan.”
Pakistan is currently placed at 158th in the world football ranking.
Pakistan's football association used the opportunity to invite Maradona to Pakistan to help develop the country's skills. A Pakistan Football Federation official wrote on Facebook:
I responded in the best possible way. A great player like Maradona has been rebuffed & ignored by Argentina after his failed attempt as a Manager/Coach in 2010 World Cup. If he really wants to serve football then he should accept our Invitation & come build the game with us.
Maradona has since expressed interest in the idea. His agent has requested that the Pakistan Football Federation send Maradona an official invitation through the proper channels.
First Maradona slams Pakistan and its football and then, according to agent, he's willing to come here to ‘help’ us. http://t.co/pd21JEr1K3
— Emad Zafar (@EmadZafar) March 28, 2014
Maradona's comments touched off many reactions on social media:
Genuinely excited about the fact that Maradona spoke about Pakistan, even if it's in the context of an unfortunate comparison.
— Umair Javed (@umairjav) March 26, 2014
— Rumaisa Mohani (@RumaisaMohani) March 28, 2014
Some were not impressed and took the comparison as an insult:
— Fiza Waheed (@FizaW) March 28, 2014
Abu Asheer commented in Facebook:
That's a foolish invitation, I guess its the reaction of what Maradona have said earlier about Pakistan's Football Caliber, Whoever is feeling bad on the comment of “Maradona” about Pakistan's Football, They dont need to feel alike, haha! Absolutely nothing wrong with what Maradona has said. We can also say, “PCB knows as much about cricket as Argentina does; They have no clue at all”
Umaid Wasim at Dawn.com defended the work of the Pakistan Football Federation, noting that the organization has made significant progress, putting a focus on youth and women's football as well as incubating winning team Khan Research Laboratories:
The PFF has managed to do all that despite internal turmoil and unrest in the country, despite the threat of militant insurgency, and, most importantly, despite a lack of sponsorship for a majority of its tournaments.