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Diego Maradona’s misguided political statement on Western Sahara 0

Diego Maradona is considered as the greatest footballer of all time and scorer or the “Goal of the Century.” And now, it seems, a willing apologist for the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara.

According to a number of news reports, as well as posts on Maradona’s official Facebook page and the Twitter account of former Egyptian football great, Mohamed Aboutrika, the two of them are set to return to Morocco along with other former stars of the game—including Brazil’s Rivaldo, Ghana’s Abedi Pele, and Liberia’s George Weah—and former Moroccan players for a so-called “Match for Peace” tomorrow. Organized by the Royal Moroccan Football Federation, the match will take place at Sheikh Mohamed Laghdaf Stadium in Laayoune, the capital of occupied Western Sahara.

The announcement on Maradona’s official Facebook page reads: “Match for Peace in Morocco, next Sunday November 6. With great football stars: Rivaldo, Noureddine Naybet, Abedi Pele, Mohamed Aboutrika and George Weah”

This is all deceiving. Less a match for peace, the game is part of Morocco’s wider efforts to project a positive international image and normalize its occupation. It marks the forty-first anniversary of the so-called Green March, an event orchestrated by the previous Moroccan king, Hassan II, during which hundreds of thousands of Moroccans crossed into Western Sahara in 1975.

While it is something to celebrate for Morocco, for the Sahrawi of Western Sahara it marks the invasion and partial occupation of their homeland by Morocco in 1975, forced exile for many, and serves as a painful reminder of the unfulfilled promise of self-determination.

This is not the first time Maradona has done this. (He has a jumble of contradictory politics and associations anyway. See here, here and here.)

In 2015 Maradona participated in a similar match to the mark the fortieth anniversary of the event, along with Aboutrika, Pele, Weah, and apparently others such as Brazilian Gilberto Silva. Maradona even played for free. Yet international criticism was muted at best.

Continue reading on Africa is a country

By Aubrey Bloomfield

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