(JTA) — The Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona hugged Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and told him, “My heart is Palestinian.”
Maradona and Abbas met Saturday in Moscow as part of the soccer governing body FIFA’s activities around the final match of the World Cup, in which France defeated Croatia, 4-2, the following day.
Maradona posted a photo of the hug with Abbas on his Instagram account, which has 3 million followers, and wrote: “This man wants peace in Palestine. Mr. President Abbas has a country and has a right.” The post has received nearly 105,000 likes
Abbas presented Maradona with a painting of a dove with an olive branch in its beak.
Russian President Vladimir Putin invited Abbas to watch the championship match. Maradona covers the World Cup as a commentator for Venezuela’s state-run news network teleSUR, a channel that often criticizes the United States and Israel. He was the host of the main teleSUR’s Russia 2018 World Cup TV show.
“We cannot be bought, we are lefties on the feet, we are lefties on the hands, and we are lefties on the mind,” Maradona said in closing his final show on Sunday. “That has to be known by the people, that we say the truth, that we want equality, and that we don’t want the Yankee flag planted on us.”
Maradona also has publicly expressed his admiration for the leaders of Venezuela, Cuba and Iran. In December 2007, he said to the top Iranian diplomat in Argentina, Mohsen Baharvand: “I have already met [Venezuelan President Hugo] Chavez and [Cuban leader] Fidel [Castro]. Now I want to meet your president.”
FIFA has opened disciplinary proceedings against the president of the Palestinians’ soccer governing body for alleged incitement that led to the cancellation of a friendly match between Argentina and Israel one week before the World Cup. The BDS campaign had threatened the Argentine players.