(JTA) — Soccer legend Diego Maradona died Wednesday in his Buenos Aires home after suffering a heart attack, spurring tributes from around the sports world, including from Diego Schwartzman, the Jewish tennis star who was named for his fellow Argentine.
On Instagram, Schwartzman posted a video of Maradona, writing in Spanish, “I love you forever.” The tribute included “D10S,” or “dios,” the Spanish word for God — a nickname given to Maradona, who is revered in Argentina. Schwartzman also wrote in a second post that he is crying constantly and, in Spanish, “My name is Diego because of you.”
“He comes from Argentina, so wherever we go, everyone knows Argentina thanks to Maradona! This is the reason why I have the first name, Diego,” Schwartzman said earlier in November. During the Paris Masters tournament, he wrote a tribute to his hero, signing “#FuerzaDiego” on a TV camera following a second-round win.
Maradona famously stood at 5-foot-5. Schwartzman, though listed at 5-7, is likely shorter.
“I have a good relationship with Maradona,” Schwartzman, who entered the top 10 of the world rankings this year for the first time, once said. “He says what he feels and he keeps it ‘real.’ What you see is what you get with Maradona. He’s an asset to all Argentinian athletes. He’s got a sense of humor, too. Before, he’d say ‘hey Dieguito [little Diego], say hello to big Diego.’ When I reached the quarter-finals at the U.S. Open [in 2017], he told me I no longer go by Dieguito. From that point on, I’m also big Diego.”
Maradona as captain led Argentina in several friendly matches against Israel typically played as the final tune-up before the World Cup. In 1986, Maradona scored twice in a 7-2 victory in Ramat Gan for a squad that went on to win the World Cup. Four years later, Maradona scored a goal in a 2-1 win; that team lost in the World Cup finals to Germany.
Argentina tuned up for the 1994 World Cup with a 3-0 victory over Israel. Maradona met Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin during the team’s stay in Israel.
Decades later, Maradona gave his shirt signed as a present to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and was criticized by relatives of the AMIA Jewish center bombing’s victims. Iran was believed to be behind the 1994 attack, which killed 85 and wounded hundreds.
Maradona also made pro-Palestinian statements and expressed his admiration to the rogue leaders of Venezuela, Cuba and Iran.