Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday met former Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona, who expressed his solidarity with Abbas, reported Yediot Aharonot.
In a short conversation, Maradona reportedly said to Abbas that he sympathizes with the plight of the Palestinian people, as the two embraced each other in a brief hug.
"I am a Palestinian. This man wants peace in Palestine. President Abbas has a country and has a right,” Maradona was quoted as having wrote on his Instagram account.
Abbas, according to the report, complimented Maradona and presented him with a gift in the form of a painting of a dove carrying an olive branch and olive oil.
Abbas was in Moscow on Sunday for the World Cup 2018 final. On Saturday he held a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Maradona has been vocally anti-Israel, and has in the past urged the establishment of a Palestinian state.
In 2012, he said he was “the number one fan of the Palestinian people” and in 2014 was said to be considering coaching the Palestinian Arab soccer team.
The meeting between Abbas and the former Argentine soccer star comes a month after the Argentinian national soccer team cancelled a friendly game against the Israeli national team, citing threats against its current star, Lionel Messi, as the reason for the cancellation.
FIFA, the governing body of soccer, started disciplinary proceedings against Palestinian Football Association (PFA) chief Jibril Rajoub, after he called for protest against Messi and his plan to play with Argentina in Jerusalem.
In his speech, Rajoub encouraged burning Messi shirts if he played in Israel, and compared modern Israel to Nazi Germany.
Maradona has been a controversial figure vis-à-vis the World Cup, noted Yediot Aharonot. He was dismissed last month from his position as FIFA ambassador to the World Cup following his unruly behavior in the stands during the Argentina matches.
He gave the finger to the Nigerian fans after Argentina’s dramatic victory in a third game of the group stages, before collapsing and being taken to the hospital.
In light of these events, FIFA representatives branded Maradona’s behavior "embarrassing and provocative."