Diego Maradona said Sunday that Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata would “set an example” for Argentine football as he officially began his new role as head coach of the struggling club.
More than 30,000 fans gave the 1986 World Cup winner a hero’s welcome in an open training session at the Juan Carmelo Zerillo stadium in the city of La Plata, around 50km southeast of Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires.
“I want to promise you one thing: while I am in charge, the whole group will set an example,” the 57-year-old said during an emotional address. “All the love you [fans] give them [the players] will give them the boost they need to win games, and we will win them.
“We are going to play with our lives and leave everything on the pitch. Those who don’t train won’t play. We’re going to be tough opponents, rest assured.”
Maradona was appointed Gimnasia’s head coach on Friday after agreeing to a contract that runs until the end of the current Superliga Argentina season next May.
Gimnasia are currently last in the 24-team Superliga Argentina standings with one win and four losses from five matches this season. Dario Ortiz quit as manager last Sunday after the team’s 1-0 loss to Argentinos Juniors.
Maradona’s first match in charge will be a home clash against Racing Club next Sunday.
The former Napoli, Barcelona and Boca Juniors star is widely regarded as one of the greatest footballers in history and almost single-handedly led Argentina to the 1986 World Cup title in Mexico.