Diego Maradona just can’t quit Venezuela, can he? Months after proclaiming that he would suit and fight for President Nicolás Maduro, the Argentine soccer legend has now signed a contract to be an analyst with Telesur, a pan-Latin American television network run out of Caracas, but with government patronage from Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Uruguay, and Bolivia.
As part of the deal, El Pelusa will commentate for two games during next year’s World Cup from Russia, as part of a program called “From the Hand of the 10,” a tongue-in-cheek reference both to his playing number of 10 and his most infamous goal, the Hand of God against England in the 1986 World Cup. In announcing his contract with Telesur, Maradona was accompanied by Maduro, who recently was in hot water over a gaffe where the president of the starving nation ate an empanada live on state television in a video that quickly went viral in the United States.
Venezuela's president, already mocked for gaining weight amid a hunger crisis, pulls out an empanada from his desk during a live TV address. pic.twitter.com/sPw63dbt83
— Hannah Dreier (@hannahdreier) November 3, 2017
That Maradona is commentating a couple of World Cup matches is not news in and of itself; given that this is likely Lionel Messi’s last real chance to win a World Cup, having the only comparable Argentine player along to provide analysis feels like a no-brainer. But with Maradona, there is always context.
Back in August, El Pibe de Oro posted a message to his personal Facebook page wherein he said he would put on the colors of Venezuela in order to fight against imperialism. That wasn’t surprising, as Maradona has always been publicly in favor of Venezuela’s socialist revolution, as started by his friend, then-President Hugo Chávez. He also had a close relationship with Fidel Castro, with the Cuban dictator considering the soccer god a close personal friend.
Maradona hasn’t been as supportive of Maduro in the public, at least not before the August Facebook post. The new Telesur contract, however, is a concrete backing of the Venezuelan president and his regime, which has faced year-long protests from its citizens over repression and loss of democracy.