HAVANA (Reuters) - Diego Maradona has been invited by Colombia’s FARC to play for their team in a soccer “Game for Peace” during talks in Cuba between the rebels and the Colombian government looking to settle a decades-old conflict.
The match involving a team of retired soccer players is being organized by former Colombia captain Carlos Valderrama, who invited former Argentina great Maradona, a friend of Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
The idea for the game was to gain international exposure for the talks between the government of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) that have been going on in Cuba for more than a year.
“We’re preparing physically, athletically,” Ivan Marquez, head of the FARC negotiators, told reporters on Monday. “We’re training to play this crucial game here in Havana.”
Marquez, pictured at the weekend with fellow FARC members wearing soccer kit, asked Maradona “to join us, come and play with us so we can try at last to reach a peace that has dodged us for decades.”
The conflict between the FARC and successive Colombian governments has been going on for nearly half a century and claimed more than 200,000 lives.
Former Argentina captain and coach Maradona currently works as a sports ambassador for the United Arab Emirates.
Reporting by Rosa Tania Valdes; Additional reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta in Bogota; Writing by Rex Gowar in Buenos Aires; Editing by Ken Ferris