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Argentine football legend Diego Maradona visited the tomb of his friend Hugo Chavez on Friday and urged Venezuelans to elect the late leftist leader's designated successor in this weekend's presidential election.
Wearing a white shirt and donning diamonds in each ear, Maradona called on Venezuelans to vote for acting President Nicolas Maduro on Sunday to continue the socialist leader's legacy.
"Continue the struggle," Maradona said on state-run television after visiting the marble tomb in an old military barracks perched in a hillside Caracas neighborhood.
"He's no longer here physically but we will continue with Nicolas, we will continue the legacy of not letting ourselves be trampled by anybody," he said. "In the ballot box on Sunday, people must reaffirm Chavez's ideas through Nicolas."
Maradona attended Maduro's final campaign rally in Caracas late Thursday, signing footballs and kicking them to the crowd. Wearing a red shirt with his trademark number 10, he kissed Maduro in the cheek.
Maduro faces opposition leader Henrique Capriles in the election, one month after Chavez lost his battle with cancer.
Maradona said he apologized to the Chavez family for missing the late president's funeral in March.
"He gave me friendship and incredible political wisdom," the 1986 World Cup winner said.
"Hugo Chavez changed the way Latin Americans thought, because we were almost surrendered to the United States our entire lives. He put inside our heads that we could walk on our own," he said.
"That's why he was loved and respected, and for me this was a big loss," he said.