Maradona shows combative side in Pope's 'Peace' game


And even in a charity match dubbed “United for Peace” — organized by Pope Francis — soccer legend Diego Maradona, now aged 55, shows no sign of losing that competitive streak.

The Argentine, famed for his heavenly skill, was one of several high-profile current and former players to take to the pitch at Roma’s Stadio Olimpico on Wednesday.

Rome’s own son Francesco Totti, Brazilian Ronaldinho and Juan Sebastian Veron were just some of the star names to make an appearance at the charity event.

It was fellow Argentine Veron that sent Maradona into a bit of a strop as the two teams were walking off at the end of the first half.

Maradona, who inspired Argentina to the 1986 World Cup, took exception to a tackle from Veron midway through the opening 45 minutes.

While the pair initially laughed the incident off, something triggered a heated discussion as they made their way towards the changing rooms.

Maradona coached Veron between 2008-10 while in charge of the Argentina national team, and it was reported the compatriots reconciled their differences during the interval.

Proceeds from the charity match will go to the Vatican’s international projects, including rebuilding facilities in Italy’s earthquake-hit town of Amatrice.

The Pope, a fellow countryman of Maradona and Veron, is a huge football fan and supports Argentine club San Lorenzo.

In 2014, following San Lorenzo winning the Copa Libertadores title — South America’s Champions League equivalent — the Pope invited the team to visit him at the Vatican.

Health problems

Maradona also credits Pope Francis for renewing his faith, saying he had previously distanced himself from religion.

“I am with Pope Francis, for him I am always available,” Maradona told a press conference before the match.

“He is doing a great job also inside the Vatican, which pleases all Catholics. I had distanced myself from the church for many reasons. … Pope Francis made me come back.”

Maradona is one of the greatest players in soccer history, having helped Napoli win two Italian league titles after a difficult two-year stay at Barcelona — both clubs signed him for world-record fees.

But his career was marred by controversy over drug use — he was thrown out of the 1994 World Cup after testing positive for ephedrine — and he suffered from subsequent health problems.

Veron had the last laugh in Wednesday’s game — the “White Team” he played for won 4-3.

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