Maradona makes pledge to new club

Plan for the next season is being charted out with a pre-season camp in UAE itself even though there are invites from European countries to use facilities for free.

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DUBAI // Diego Maradona has promised to build a title-challenging side at Al Wasl after watching the team in action for the first time last week.

Maradona was in the stands at Zabeel Stadium on Sunday when Sharjah stunned the home side with a 2-1 victory, a result which cost Wasl a place in the Asian Champions League next season.

Since the game, the Argentine has held a series of meetings with the club's executives, discussing transfer strategy and recruiting Ali Hassan as his assistant coach.

"After the Sharjah match, we went back to the hotel [with Maradona] and we stayed there until the late hours of the next morning, discussing plans for the next season," Marwan bin Bayat, the chairman, said.

"He told me: 'Do not be disappointed. Whatever happened on the field [in that match], it will never happen next season.' This is his promise and he is ready to do his best next season."

Maradona has already decided to base his pre-season in the UAE, despite invites from a number of European countries to use their training facilities for free.

Discussion on new recruits, both foreigners and locals, are ongoing and bin Bayat expects to make an announcement in the next fortnight. A midfielder and a striker are top of the club's wish list.

The club also unveiled their new logo, with English text, and a mascot, a Panther, for the 2011/12 season at an end-of-season ceremony on Wednesday night, where the officials and champion athletes of the club, across all sports, were honoured.

"The logos reflect the new identity of Al Wasl Club, a new vision," bin Bayat said. "Since we are positioning ourselves to be an international club, we need to reflect our identity through the logo itself."