BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Diego Maradona became Argentina's new soccer coach Tuesday, taking over the team he led to the World Cup championship in 1986.
Argentina's Diego Maradona talks to reporters before leaving his house in Buenos Aires' outskirts, Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2008. Julio Grondona, head of the Argentine Football Association, asked Tuesday Maradona and Argentine coach Carlos Bilardo to lead Argentina's national soccer team.
(AP Photo/La Nacion, Fernanda Corbani)
The 48-year-old Maradona's first game in charge will be a friendly against Scotland on Nov. 19 at Glasgow.
"It's an honor," he said. "I'm going to give it my all to make sure that things go well. We're going to work everyday so that Argentina has a national team that keeps getting better and better."
While Maradona remains a national hero, his appointment has been questioned by local media and fans since it was first announced last week. Many are doubtful he can translate his playing skills into coaching expertise, and are wary of the star's past troubles with drugs and obesity.
Maradona was flanked at a news conference by new Argentina manager Carlos Bilardo and Julio Grondona, the head of the Argentine federation.
Grondona brushed aside criticism that Maradona wasn't qualified to be a coach, saying "we have the security of excellence."
Maradona replaces Alfio Basile, who stepped down on Oct. 16, one day after a 1-0 loss to neighboring Chile in World Cup qualifying. Argentina finished third in the South American standings.
One of Maradona's first decisions was to replace Javier Zanetti as captain with Javier Mascherano.
Maradona said Mascherano was the "best suited player" because he brings together the necessary characteristics of "thinking, sacrifice, professional, being attentive to teammates."
Maradona's coaching team, however, was in limbo. Last Friday, it seemed Sergio Batista and Jose Luis Brown, Maradona's teammates in Argentina's 1986 World Cup champion side, would be his assistants.
Batista was the Argentina Youth coach and Brown his assistant. Batista also coached the team that won the Olympic gold medal in Beijing.
But Maradona announced this week that he preferred Oscar Ruggeri and his friend Alejandro Mancuso on his coaching team. But AFA head Grondona apparently doesn't approve, and so the official announcement on the assistants was stalled.
"We still don't have it resolved," Maradona said.
"What we're looking for with Carlos is that the (new coaching staff) be made of iron, that they're ready to work and that they will accept orders from the head guy, which is me," Maradona said Tuesday.
His first move as coach will be to travel to Spain to watch Real Madrid host Juventus in the Champions League on Wednesday, he said. He will travel throughout Europe to speak with Argentine players on European clubs, to put together his team.