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I Could Have Had the Shirt From Maradona's Last International

Emenalo was selected with Maradona to undergo the mandatory doping test following the 2-1 win for Argentina which discovered banned stimulant ephedrine in the Argentine great\'s system.

Published: 20th November 2015 08:12 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th November 2015 08:12 AM   |  A+A-

LONDON: As a Nigeria international capped 14 times by his country, Michael Emenalo faced Diego Maradona when their countries met in the 1994 World Cup, but it was an encounter after the game that sticks in his mind.

Emenalo was selected with Maradona to undergo the mandatory doping test following the 2-1 win for Argentina in Foxborough, Massachusetts. It was the test that would discover the banned stimulant ephedrine in Maradona's system, ending his World Cup and his 17-year international career.

"I was sat in the corridor with him and he [Maradona] was making jokes about it," Emenalo says. "He had his shirt in his hand and he was looking at me. This was Maradona! I was just thinking about how I had a poor game. I was thinking I wasn't going to play the next game against Greece. All the time he was looking at me. It wasn't until I went home I thought, 'He wanted to swap shirts'. Later when I got married I told my wife and she laughed. Can you imagine that last Argentina shirt? With Maradona's sweat on it? I could have had that shirt in my hand!"

Emenalo had an unusual playing career, which took in stints at the Belgian club now known as FC Brussels; Germany's Eintracht Trier; Notts County; San Jose Clash; Lleida in Spain and finally Maccabi Tel Aviv, where he played under Avram Grant. He spent 85 days at Notts County in the 1994-1995 season, having been encouraged to play in England by international team-mate John Chiedozie. During that time he worked under Howard Kendall and Steve Nicol.

Originally from Aba in south-east Nigeria, Emenalo, 50, joined County late in his career. "I grew up watching English football. I watched the Match of the Day, which we got two weeks late! I always wanted to play in England."

At Lleida he was managed by Juande Ramos, who approached him about joining him at Tottenham Hotspur in 2007. Emenalo was close to doing so until Ramos procrastinated and Grant made him an offer to join Chelsea. He began as a scout and was briefly an assistant to Carlo Ancelotti before becoming technical director in 2011.



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