Palestinians are morning footballer star Diego Armando Maradona. The legendary icon who many consider to be the greatest player to ever play the game, died yesterday in Buenos Aires, Argentina, at just 60 years of age, following a heart attack.
While Maradona's prowess on the pitch turned him into a global icon, he gained fame off the field as well for his stance against colonialism and foreign occupation. He has been hailed as an anti-imperialist and a great supporter of progressive movements across the world.
Maradona's affection and unapologetic support for the Palestinian cause is well-known. Two years ago during the 2018 World Cup tournament he said in a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, "my heart is Palestinian."
Maradona posted a photo of the meeting with Abbas on his Instagram account, which has nearly seven million followers, and wrote: "This man wants peace in Palestine. Mr. President Abbas has a country and has a right." Abbas presented Maradona with a painting of a dove with an olive branch in its beak.
This wasn't the only time he expressed support. 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 2,500 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.
Palestinians have joined millions around the world to mourn the icon's death, sharing clips of his unmatched prowess on the field and his stance on social justice off it.