Diego Maradona has been hailed as the man who "put UAE football on the global map" after the two Emirati teams he managed played each other on Thursday night.
A tribute to the World Cup-winning Argentine, who died of a heart attack in Buenos Aires on Wednesday, was shown on the big screen at Zabeel Stadium in Dubai as Al Wasl played host to Al Fujairah in the Arabian Gulf League.
Wasl emerged convincing 3-0 winners and their caretaker manager Salem Rabee dedicated the victory to Maradona who was in charge at the club for a season in 2011/12.
“Maradona put UAE football and the country on the global map when he took charge of Wasl,” the Emirati said of the South American hero, who also managed Fujairah for a season in 2017/18.
“The whole world acknowledges him as one of the greatest football player ever for his outstanding talent and abilities. We are very saddened by this news. He was a very friendly and lovable character.
“Maradona did a lot of good work but unfortunately didn’t achieve the desired results. He has left us with a lot of good memories that we at Wasl can cherish for the rest of our lives.”
Brazilian forward Fabio de Lima gave the home side a flying start when he opened the scoring after just 30 seconds.
However, they had to wait until the 72nd minute to double the lead through Argentine Nicolas Oroz before Ali Saleh struck the third eight minutes from time to complete the rout.
“It was a win that we badly wanted and very happy to take our tally to nine points,” Rabee said. “We have been working as a group and hope we can continue to build on this win. We have a few youngsters and I was impressed by Ali Saleh’s performance tonight.
“We started well and scored an early goal that provided us a good platform. We couldn’t score again for a long time in the game but managed to find the net twice ... in the second half. So, it was a hugely satisfying result.”
Elsewhere, Ali Mabkhout and Milos Kosanovic struck in the first half as Al Jazira defeated Hatta 2-0.
Imoh Ezekiel headed the ball into Mabkhout’s path and the UAE international fired past Hatta goalkeeper Saeed Al Mesmari on 29 minutes. Kosanovic blasted a free-kick into the top corner of the net to double the lead 10 minutes later.