Fidel Castro praises Maradona, Messi

Former Cuban president Fidel Castro has praised the football analysis skills of former Argentina legend Diego Maradona, as well as the ability of current Albiceleste skipper Lionel Messi.

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Maradona is working as an analyst on the current world Cup for Venezuelan TV programme "De Zurda" -- which translates from Spanish as "From the Left" -- with the show carried by the Telesur network which airs in Cuba.

Castro, now 87, has apparently been following the action from Brazil on the show -- and wrote a letter to Maradona which was read out live on air on Monday by host Victor Hugo Morales.

"Unforgettable friend," the letter begins. "Every day I follow your programme about the World Cup and follow the extraordinary level of this exceptional sport. I do not believe adequate education is possible for the young people of all countries without sport, and without football in the case of the boys. Today I am a politician, but as a boy, teenager and youth I was an athlete and I dedicated the best part of my free time to this noble practice.

"I admire your behaviour for numerous reasons. I had the privilege of meeting you when the most righteous ideas of our people triumphed, and no power could crush them. Nothing could harm our bond as fellow Latin Americans. You have come victoriously through the most difficult tests as an athlete and a youngster from a humble background."

The letter went on to praise Messi as an example of another "Latin American" who was able to triumph despite the obstacles put in his way by unnamed enemies.

"I would also like to congratulate Messi, a formidable athlete who brings glory to the noble people of Argentina," Castro wrote. "Nothing could take away the glory and prestige of you both, despite the miserable efforts of the intriguers. A brotherly salute to you and the excellent and prestigious footballers of our America."

Castro retired as leader of Cuba in 2008 after 49 years in power and was replaced by his brother Raul, 83, who is currently in power.

He got to know Maradona when the former player received help for drug and weight problems on the island in 2000. The pair also both have ties to Hugo Chavez, the former Venezuelan president who died in March 2013.