After Maradona's Death, His Opinion of America Resurfaces: 'I Hate Everything From the U.S.'

Following the announcement of his death on Wednesday, Argentinian soccer legend Diego Maradona's politics have re-surfaced, with many discussing the player's relationship with controversial leaders. Amid the discussion and praise for the star, one controversial opinion has re-emerged, where he expressed his hatred for the United States.

The footballer was famously leftist, publicly supporting controversial leaders like Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who was a member of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, and former Cuban leader Fidel Castro. It was in 2007 when he made the contentious statements about the U.S. to Chavez.

As reported by Reuters at the time, Maradona appeared on a talk show hosted by the Venezuelan president, who was also critical of the U.S. "I hate everything that comes from the United States. I hate it with all my strength," Maradona said to audience applause.

It wasn't the first time he'd criticized the U.S. or then-President George W. Bush. In 2005, he donned a "Stop Bush" t-shirt (with the "s" in "Bush" written as a swastika) to protest the president's visit to Argentina. "I'm proud as an Argentine to repudiate the presence of this human trash, George Bush," he said according to The Guardian.

A decade after appearing on Chavez's show, Maradona still voiced concerns about the U.S. During an appearance in Russia, he likened President Donald Trump to "a cartoon character," but praised Russian President Vladimir Putin as a leader on par with Chavez and Castro. "I think that after Chavez and Fidel, Putin–together with [Nicaraguan President Daniel] Ortega and [then-Bolivian President] Evo [Morales], represent the 'top league' of political leaders," he said in 2017, according to Russian outlet RT.

He also spoke about other countries being powerful and the U.S. not being "the county sheriff anymore." He also said at the time that Trump's presidency could lead to war. "When you see such cartoon characters like Trump, you begin thinking that if such a man takes it into his head we may all become enemies," he said.

While he attacked Trump, he did offer other praises to Putin, saying that he thought the Russian leader could "bring peace to many in this world."

America isn't alone in being on the receiving end of his ire. Maradona also expressed issues with the Catholic Church, particularly greed that he perceived within it. An episode documented by The Independent in 2005 saw him criticizing Pope John Paul II. He believed it was hypocritical that the Vatican has priceless art, while claiming to care for the poor. "I've been to the Vatican and seen the gold ceilings. And then I hear the Pope saying that the Church was concerned about poor kids. So? Sell the ceilings, mate! You've got nothing going for you. You were only a goalkeeper," he said.

Although he may have been jaded by John Paul II, Pope Francis, also an Argentinian, helped him go back to the faith. "I had drifted away from the Church, but Francisco brought me back," he said in 2016, according to El Pais.

As noted, Maradona's admiration for Castro was well-documented, even if he felt disillusioned by U.S. or church leaders. When the Cuban leader died in 2016, the former World Cup champ spoke glowingly about him. "I wept uncontrollably," Maradona he said at the time according to Reuters. "After my father, it's the deepest sorrow I know."

Maradona spent four years in Cuba trying to kick a drug habit. He said Castro regularly got in touch with him to chat about sports and politics. The soccer player gave the leader much of the credit for helping him get clean. "He opened Cuba's doors to me when clinics in Argentina were slamming them shut because they didn't want the death of Maradona on their hands," he said. "He said I could do it and I did it. And here I am, talking about him."

Maradona had admired Castro so much that he had gotten a tattoo of his face on his leg. He also donned a tattoo of Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara on his arm.

Diego Maradona Castro
Argentinian ex soccer star Diego Armando Maradona (L) speaks with Cuban President Fidel Castro, before recording Maradona's TV program "The 10's Night" in Havana 27 October 2005. Maradona was a critic of the U.S., but admired political leaders like Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Getty/ISMAEL FRANCISCO GONZALEZ/AFP