As the world mourns the death of football’s legendary player, Diego Maradona, many people are also paying tribute to his vocal support for the Palestinian cause.
The former Argentinian player and World Cup winner died on Wednesday from a heart attack at just 60 years old, following years of health problems.
His death came two weeks after being released from a Buenos Aires hospital following brain surgery.
Maradona has been hailed as an anti-imperialist, left-wing socialist, who has supported progressive movements.
He counted among his friends the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, Cuba’s late President Fidel Castro, and Bolivia’s Evo Morales.
He was seen on more than one occasion accompanying Chavez, wearing an anti-George Bush shirt.
He unapologetically supported Palestine, even after hanging up his football boots.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri tweeted his condolences to Maradona’s family and fans across the world.
“We are so sad for the death of one of the greatest footballers, ‘Maradona’, who is known for his support of the #Palestine cause,” he wrote.
In 2012, Maradona described himself as “the number one fan of the Palestinian people”.
“I respect them and sympathise with them,” he said. “I support Palestine without any fear.”
Two years later, during Israel’s summer offensive on the besieged Gaza Strip that killed at least 3,000 Palestinians, Maradona expressed his outrage and criticised Israel.
“What Israel is doing to the Palestinians is shameful,” he said in a statement.
A year later, reports circulated that Maradona was in negotiations with the Palestinian Football Association over the possibility of coaching the Palestinian national team during the 2015 AFC Asian Cup.
In July 2018, he met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during a short meeting in Moscow, again reiterating his long-standing support for Palestinians.
“In my heart, I am Palestinian,” he told Abbas as he embraced him in a clip that was uploaded on his Instagram page.
In the same year, Maradona expressed his opinions on the US’s role in Syria, which was in its seventh year of civil war as President Bashar al-Assad consolidated his control over the majority of the country.
“You don’t need to go to university to know that the United States wants to wipe Syria out of existence,” he said.