Maradona dismisses security concerns

Friday, January 22, 2010

ohannesburg - Argentinean national coach Diego Maradona has dismissed security concerns ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup and encouraged fans to come to South Africa for the tournament.

"They can say what they want but we know we are coming to play the World Cup in a safe country. I have seen that with my own eyes. Anything can happen in the world but I have spent a week in South Africa and everything is very good and the people very friendly.

"This will be a great World Cup with no doubts of security. I will tell my players that they only have to think of playing football when they come here and worry about nothing else," said Maradona, speaking at SAFA House in Johannesburg on Thursday.

"I think that it is only fair for South Africa to host the World Cup because they have deserved it for a very long time," the former Footballer of the Year and World Cup winner said.

Maradona, who was in South Africa this week to inspect the Argentinean base camp in Pretoria, also said that he was happy with preparations for the World Cup.

On Thursday, he met with the Chief Executive Officer of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee South Africa (OC) Dr Danny Jordaan, SAFA President Kirsten Nematandani and CEO Leslie Sedibe, as well as senior OC management.

Dr Jordaan said he felt there were many similarities between the 1986 FIFA World Cup winning team in which Maradona played and the one he is currently coaching.

"I told the coach that in 1986 when Argentina left for the World Cup the people of Argentina did not think that team would bring back the cup. But that team had a special player and in the end they won the World Cup.

"This year your team also has a very special player. They may not be among the favourites to win the World Cup this year but I think your team is going to surprise many people," Dr Jordaan said.

Maradona and Dr Jordaan late on Thursday exchanged signed national jerseys on the pitch as Soccer City.