Argentinian soccer legend Diego Maradona warmly greeted Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Russia on Saturday, and told him, “In my heart, I’m Palestinian.”
In an Instagram post sharing a photo of the two hugging, Maradona wrote in Spanish, “This man wants peace in Palestine. Mr. President Abbas, you have a full-fledged country.”
Abbas was in Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but faced domestic criticism for his decision to attend Sunday’s World Cup final in Moscow, amid ongoing unrest in Gaza, where Israel and Palestinian terrorist groups have exchanged fire, resulting in casualties on both sides of the tense border.
Maradona has been vocal in his support for the Palestinian cause in the past, and has urged the speedy establishment of a Palestinian state.
“I am the number one fan of the Palestinian people,” he said in 2012. “I respect them and sympathize with them.”
In 2014, during the Gaza-Israel war known as Operation Protective Edge, Maradona said, “What Israel is doing to the Palestinians is shameful.”
Later that same year, it was briefly rumored 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, though that never materialized.
The soccer star, considered one of the best to ever play the game, helped Argentina win the 1986 World Cup, including one controversial goal he famously attributed to “the hand of God.”