Maradona with Fidel Castro, in Havana, in 2013.Alex Castro / AP
He had Che Guevara tattooed on his right forearm and, in order not to leave him alone, he made another of his friend Fidel Castro, with signature and all, on his left calf, that of goals, after receiving treatment in Cuba for his addiction to drugs
For Maradona, Fidel was a god, someone untouchable, he considered him his "second father", his "friend of the soul" and his "source of inspiration".
"Fidel, if I have learned something with you over the years of sincere and beautiful friendship, it is that loyalty is priceless, that a friend is worth more than all the gold in the world, and that ideas are not negotiated," he wrote in 2015 in his last letter, when the Cuban leader was already retired from political life and very ill.
By the heck of life, Castro and Pelusa died on the same day, November 25, but four years apart, both of them probably would have liked this coincidence.
They met in Cuba at Christmas 1994, when Diego had finished his career in the major soccer leagues and was serving a doping sanction imposed by FIFA during the World Cup held that same year in the United States.
They both saw the enemy's hand in it.
On that trip to Havana, Castro received Maradona at the Palace of the Revolution and spent hours talking with him about the divine and the human.
At the end of the match, the footballer gave him his Argentine national team shirt and was reciprocated with the commander's olive green cap.
Eight years earlier, Maradona had been in the Varadero pioneer camp and declared himself an unconditional admirer of the Cuban revolution.
Perhaps because of all this and because of the friendship sealed six years earlier, it was the Cuban president himself who entrusted the then director of the Havana Psychiatric Hospital, Bernabé Ordaz, to propose to Maradona that he travel to the island to rehabilitate after hitting rock bottom with the cocaine.
Maradona arrived in Havana in January 2000 in a sorry state, and just two days after settling in at the La Pradera health center, he received a visit from Castro.
"Commander, this is very easy to get in and very difficult to get out," Ten told his friend, according to what the Argentine's personal doctor, Alfredo Cahe, told EL PAÍS at that time, after ensuring that that 20-minute meeting had had "therapeutic" effects.
"If I have visits like the one I had from Fidel, I think my heart will endure and that there will be Diego for a while," Maradona explained.
The Argentine star was admitted to a specialized center in Havana, but his rehabilitation process was complex, angular and peculiar, not without potholes.
One day, shortly after starting treatment, he received a visit from his country's ambassador who brought him a bottle of wine as a gift, under the murderous gaze of the medical team.
"But, hey, if a wine is nothing," protested the diplomat before the concoction was seized.
When he was feeling much better and received his first pass, a fellow fan crossed him in the street and yelled from a car: "Don't listen to anyone, Maradona, you are God!"
"And come on," sighed then, angrily, a renowned Cuban psychologist.
“As long as the circus continues to run and he has to sign autographs, and his environment encourages him, and people tell him that he is God and he believes it, it's all complicated.
The main thing for him to be saved is to unravel Maradona ”, assured the professional, always insisting on the“ problem of the environment ”.
This nearby claque, which included friends and representatives, was credited with the responsibility of feeding his ego and taking care of granting him whims and even supplies when the boy became intractable.
One day he had a car accident during an outing and luckily nothing happened.
Another was about to attack a Reuters journalist who was chasing him - everyone was chasing him - but in the end things subsided.
One morning he woke up with a twisted bun and dyed his hair red, went shopping in Havana, celebrated a birthday party for his wife, Claudia Villafañe, posed for journalists, granted interviews to radio stations and the media almost daily. Argentines.
Although, without a doubt, the problem and the responsibility were his alone, he always had the focus of journalists behind him, something not highly recommended in cases where the best recipe is tranquility.
"With this pressure no patient can be cured and no doctor can work," said one of the doctors involved in his treatment.
Some journalists, disgusted, withdrew.
Most do not.
In the end, months after arriving, before leaving Cuba in fairly good health, Maradona agreed to play a game with his friends against the foreign journalists who had besieged him.
It was a kind of mutual redress.
Diego Armando Maradona scored two goals, gave golden passes to his fellow players, made several Chileans and, in short, officiated a real carnage.
The result was 6-0.
Who writes, who played defense, only proposed one thing in the entire match: to make a memorable foul on 10. Impossible.
He ran like a deer and celebrated every goal as if he were playing a final.
Or rather, as if he were a child, which is what he was deep down.
The later story is known.
When he presented his program La Noche del 10 on Argentine television, Fidel Castro was one of his star guests.
I used to keep in touch with him, sometimes by letter.
A year before he died, another November 25, Castro wrote to him: “I am a politician, but as a child, adolescent and young man, I was an athlete and I dedicated most of my free time to this noble practice.
I admire your behavior for different reasons: I had the privilege of meeting you when the Latin Americans triumphed.
You have overcome the most difficult tests as an athlete and a young man of humble origin "