December 24, 2007 / 9:53 PM / in 10 years

Maradona wants to meet Iranian president

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Former Argentine soccer great Diego Maradona says he wants to meet Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a leading U.S. foe, local media reported on Monday.

Maradona, an outspoken critic of the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush, gave a signed soccer shirt to an Iranian diplomat on Saturday after a game in the televised Showbol tournament of mini-matches.

Maradona, 47, is an admirer of Cuban leader Fidel Castro and he said this month he wanted a tattoo of Hugo Chavez, the fiery left-wing president of Venezuela and an ally of Iran.

“I’ve already met Fidel and Chavez ... now I need to meet your president. I’d like to meet Ahmadinejad,” he told Iran’s top diplomat in Argentina Mohsen Baharvand in a video broadcast by local media on Monday.

“I‘m there with the people of Iran, really with all my heart,” he added after the game in Buenos Aires.

In his heyday, Maradona led Argentina to its 1986 World Cup victory and he is revered in his own country and around the world. But he has struggled with drug abuse and obesity since he retired from the game.

Reporting by Luis Ampuero; translated by Helen Popper; editing by Mohammad Zargham

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