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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

Maradona in a fighting mood for embattled left wing Venezuelan leader 

 Fujairah manager and football superstar angers many with his passionate support for Maduro

Diego Maradona, and Venezuela's late President Hugo Chavez, embrace at the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela. On Monday, Aug. 7, 2017, Maradona posted on Facebook: "We are Chavistas to the death" to pledge his support for Chavez's successor, president Nicolas Maduro. Fernando Llano / AP
Diego Maradona, and Venezuela's late President Hugo Chavez, embrace at the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela. On Monday, Aug. 7, 2017, Maradona posted on Facebook: "We are Chavistas to the death" to pledge his support for Chavez's successor, president Nicolas Maduro. Fernando Llano / AP

They say you should never mix politics and sport, but the message seems to have been wasted on the Argentinian superstar and current manager of Fujairah football club, Diego Maradona.

Long known for his support of revolutionary causes, the 56-year-old 'Player of the Century' has caused a furor by openly expressing his support for Venezuela’s far left president, Nicolas Maduro.

With the start of the UAE First Division barely a month away, Maradona has taken to Facebook with a passionate declaration that he is ready to fight “until death” for the Venezuelan regime.

Maduro has come under increasing condemnation by the international community for human rights violations and killings, and his crackdown on opposition leaders.

Posting in English, Spanish and Italian, Maradona announced: "When Maduro orders, I am dressed as a soldier for a free Venezuela, to fight against the imperialism and those who want to take our flags, which is the most sacred thing we have.”

Referring to the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, the Fujairah Sports Club manager continued: "We are Chavistas until death," and added: “Long live the revolution.”

Maradona’s support of revolutionary causes includes a friendship Fidel Castro and a tattoo of the Cuban dictator’s face on his leg.

As well as dressing as a soldier and fighting to the death for the revolution, the former World Cup winner’s day job includes leading Fujairah back to the Arabian Gulf League, the top tier of UAE football. The club finished fourth last season in the second tier of UAE football after losing four out of their five final games.

Among his critics are former teammate Mario Kempes. the top scorer when Argentina won the 1978 World Cup.

Using Twitter, Kempes asked: "@DiegoMaradona how can you support the death of 124 young people who defended liberty and democracy in their country."

Now a commentator with the TV network ESPN, Kempes added: "NO TO THE DICTATORSHIP!”

Venezuela’s political turmoil includes widespread shortages of everything from food and medicines to toilet paper. Many believe the oil-rich South American country to be on the brink of civil war after an attack on a military base this month.

According to a UN report: "Witness accounts suggest that security forces ... have systematically used disproportionate force to instil fear, crush dissent and to prevent demonstrators from assembling, rallying and reaching public institutions to present petitions."

Maradona’s own life has not been without turmoil, including drug addiction, heart problems and massive tax bill from the Italian government.

His first spell in the UAE saw him sacked as manager of Al Wasl in 2012 after completing just half of a two-year contract.

As well as Fujairah SC, Maradona’s UAE comeback includes Café Diego at Abu Dhabi’s Nation Galleria Mall, which officially opened last year on his birthday and features a Dh85 'Diego' pizza and a Dh145 'Maradona' steak.