The best soccer player who ever lived is a big fan of Latin American leftist politics, and last week he’s gone on the road, again, to show it. Argentina’s Diego Maradona appeared in Cuba on Saturday alongside Fidel Castro, according to a report and photograph published Monday on the Cuba-based Cubadebate website. The site, run by a group of Cuban journalists who say their mission is to be “against media terrorism” as practiced by the mainstream Western press, said the “historical leader of the Cuban Revolution” had a “fraternal meeting” with the former soccer star.
Maradona had arrived in Cuba on Friday from Caracas, where he had gone to meet with, and show support for, President Nicolas Maduro, the successor to Hugo Chávez. Maduro narrowly won re-election in Sunday’s polls.
Maradona isn’t active in soccer anymore -- he coached the Argentinean national team for a spell until 2010, then went to the United Arab Emirates to manage Al Wasl, which fired him in 2012. He is widely considered by fans and critics to have been the best man to play the sport, an honor he officially shared with Brazil’s Pelé in 2000.
But he’s very active in politics. Always an outspoken figure, he is not shy about his views, at home or abroad. He’s been seen with Castro before; the 53-year old former futbolista and the 87-year od former Cuban president are in fact “old friends,” as Cubadebate noted. They certainly share a common attitude toward the United States, a subject on which Maradona can be even more vehement than Cuba’s socialist leader.
During President George W. Bush’s Argentina visit in 2005, Maradona was photographed with a “Stop Bush” T-shirt in which the S in the president’s name was rendered as a swastika, and he said that he was “proud as an Argentine to repudiate the presence of this human trash, George Bush.” That’s a far harsher definition of the unpopular Yanqui president than Castro ever uttered.
As for the other sworn enemy of the United States, Hugo Chávez, the man who at a United Nations summit crossed himself and said “the devil was here yesterday … and it still smells of sulphur” when taking the podium the day after Bush, he was buddies with Maradona too. Chávez and the ex-soccer star were “close friends,” according to Cubadebate, which reported on several visits when the two spent time together.
While in Venezuela to see Maduro, Maradona expressed -- again with a sartorial statement -- his views on domestic politics too. According to a story by Mercopress, he wore a red shirt with Argentine and Venezuelan flags and three embroidered slogans: “Maduro President”; “Chavez Comandante”; and “Cristina 2015”.
The reference is to President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, whose mandate expires that year. Supporters of the populist president say there ought to be a constitutional amendment to let her serve a third four-year term.