Argentina soccer legend Diego Maradona stated his hero, late Cuban revolutionary chief Fidel Castro – whom he thought of a “second father” and whose face he had tattooed on his leg – as soon as urged him to enter politics. Maradona, who died on Wednesday aged 60, by no means fulfilled these aspirations however he did play a task in championing leftist leaders throughout Latin America – resembling Castro, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Bolivia’s Evo Morales – and in serving to to lend them broader worldwide enchantment.
“Every little thing Fidel does, the whole lot Chavez does for me is the most effective (that may be carried out),” Maradona stated on Chavez’s weekly tv present in 2007. “I hate the whole lot that comes from the US. I hate it with all my power.”
The son of a manufacturing unit employee raised in a shantytown on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, Maradona first met Castro in 1987, a yr after serving to Argentina win the World Cup and 4 years earlier than the autumn of the Soviet Union that may usher in a brand new period of financial hardship in communist Cuba. An unlikely friendship between the usually outlandish footballer and the well-read revolutionary deepened firstly of the century when Maradona spent 4 years in Havana to shake an dependancy to medication.
“Coming from such humble beginnings, Castro was his idol,” stated Alfredo Tedeschi, an Argentine TV producer now based mostly in Belgium who turned shut buddies with Maradona throughout a stint working for Reuters in Havana. “It was like he fell in love (with Castro), after which got here Chavez, Morales and the remainder,” stated Tedeschi, who would typically invite the footballer over for conventional Argentine steak barbecue dinners.
Tedeschi remembers the time Maradona knocked on his door and proposed a spontaneous go to to Castro. The Cuban chief obtained them inside minutes of their arrival and cleared his busy agenda to spend three hours with them, together with to play soccer in his workplace. “They might all the time speak about politics – Diego was actually considering politics,” stated Tedeschi, including that Castro would additionally pay spontaneous visits to his Havana residence.
In 2005, Maradona interviewed Castro on his Argentine TV present, asking how George W. Bush had been re-elected president of the US, to which Castro responded: “Fraud. The terrorist mafia of Miami!” As such, Maradona was additionally a propaganda instrument for Latin America’s leftist leaders, stated Tedeschi.
“Diego was the form of man the place something he stated would have a repercussion,” stated Tedeschi. “And for Fidel, that form of propaganda was welcome.” In a accident, Maradona died on the identical date, Nov. 25, as his idol did 4 years in the past – upon which event he stated he “wept uncontrollably.”
“These two dates are intertwined on Nov. 25, and will probably be all through historical past: two greats, considered one of soccer and the opposite of the Cuban revolution,” stated pensioner Luis Perez, 64, in Havana. Cuba’s Overseas Minister Bruno Rodriguez stated on Twitter that Maradona’s “friendship with Cuba and particularly with Fidel made him a part of this folks.”
Morales and Chavez’ successor, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, additionally poured out condolences on Twitter. Maradona had voiced assist for Maduro within the face of U.S. sanctions on his authorities. “With grief in my coronary heart, I discovered of the demise of my brother, Diego Armando Maradona, an individual who felt and fought for the poor, the most effective soccer participant on this planet,” wrote Morales, an avid soccer fan.
The previous Bolivian president recruited Maradona to play in opposition to him in a charity match in La Paz in 2008 to indicate his backing for Bolivia’s marketing campaign in opposition to a FIFA ban on matches at excessive altitude. The ban was later overturned. In an interview with Argentine newspaper Clarin in 2018, Maradona stated he would contemplate going into politics, maybe as working mate with Peronist Cristina Fernandez on the 2019 presidential poll, so as to dislodge the then-conservative authorities.
“Fidel advised me I ought to dedicate myself to politics, and I might go together with her, with Cristina,” he stated. “I see folks endure, individuals who can not make ends meet till the tip of the month.” Fernandez, now vice chairman, selected one other path. However on Wednesday she paid tribute to her erstwhile admirer.
“A lot disappointment, a lot. An awesome one has gone,” she wrote on Twitter. “Till eternally, Diego, we love you.”