Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Hand of God Picks A Side on Israel-Palestine

Soccer legend Diego Maradona has come out in support of the Palestinian people. Our western readers (reader?) may not be all that familiar with Maradona, but "soccer legend" is a pretty good place to start. Some people consider him the best soccer player ever, but there's not really a Jordan-like consensus on that point. So this is kinda like Willie Mays taking a stance a controversial political issue (which, of course, Mays did- but Mays had a bit more skin in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s than Maradona has in the Israel-Palestine conflict now).

Well. Except that Maradona was suspended back in his playing days for doing cocaine, battled addiction, had to get his stomach stapled to lose weight, and is generally a bit of a gadfly. So we're kind of in "controversial star takes controversial stance" territory here, and you've gotta wonder how much that's going to move the needle.

But still. Maradona's most recent contributions to soccer have been as a manager, and it looks like he'd like to do that some more, so he's got plenty of incentive to not drum up more controversy. That he's nonetheless willing to speak out on what he believes in is refreshing, especially considering that soccer is not exactly free of geopolitical tensions.

Pretty much since the era of Jordan, every real sports superstar has remembered that "Republicans buy sneakers, too." It's a shame that they're all so market-tested and practiced at the art of strategic silence. Not every athlete needs to be Muhammad Ali or Jackie Robinson, but a little more evidence of a social conscience would be nice.

Maradona is, god knows, an imperfect messenger for the Palestinian cause, or for the idea of socially conscience athletes in general. But at least he's trying to say something.

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