By Laura Gamba
BOGOTA, Colombia (AA) - The world is mourning the passing of Argentine soccer legend Diego Armando Maradona, who died of heart failure on Nov. 25.
Coincidentally, four years earlier on the same day, former Cuban President Fidel Castro, whom Maradona considered a close friend and a ‘second father,’ passed away.
The relationship with Castro was so close that Maradona had a tattoo of the Cuban leader on his left leg. He developed a close relationship with Castro when he went to the island to be treated for drug dependency after he nearly died of a heart problem caused by his addiction to cocaine.
Four years ago, Maradona grieved over the death of his friend.
"The legend is still alive in us, in the hearts that beat for Fidel [Castro]," he told Cuban state television after landing in Havana.
And just as he had a tattoo of Castro on his left leg, the face of iconic revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara adorned his right shoulder.
Maradona never sought to conceal his strong leftist political views.
Throughout his life, he was outspoken on political and social causes, perhaps stemming from his humble beginnings. He grew up in a very humble neighborhood in Buenos Aires called Villa Fiorito. Although he enjoyed a life of luxury as an adult, he never forgot that he grew up in poverty. That is why he was seen as the soccer player “of the people.”
Maradona developed a strong friendship with former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and in 2018 joined Chavez's successor, Nicolas Maduro, on the campaign trail during that year's election.
When Chavez died in March 2013, Maradona expressed great sorrow.
"Hugo Chavez has changed the way of thinking of Latin America. We were devoted to the United States, and he put in our heads that we could walk alone," he said.
He also championed former Bolivian President Evo Morales, who was ousted last year. In 2008, Maradona played a charity match in La Paz to show his backing for Bolivia’s campaign against a FIFA ban on matches at high altitude.
Maradona also expressed anti-American and anti-Bush sentiment throughout his life.
He also showed his support for Palestine on several occasions, meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2018 during the World Cup in Russia, when he gave Abbas a signed national team shirt.
Abbas on Thursday expressed "his deepest sorrow" over the death of Maradona.
Maradona also spoke out against the Vatican when John Paul II was pope.
"I went in and saw the golden ceiling. And I thought to myself: how can [he]...live with a golden ceiling and then go to poor countries and kiss the boys with a belly like that. I stopped believing because I was seeing," he said after visiting the Vatican.
Many years later, when Francis, an Argentinian, was appointed pope, Maradona said he had regained his faith in the Church. He met Pope Francis several times at the Vatican after he was elected in 2013 as Latin America's first pontiff.