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When fabled Argentinean soccer star Diego Maradona steps onto the set of the new Israeli telenovela in which, however improbably, he is set play a leading role, he will find himself embroiled in a highly melodramatic plot.
"The story starts in Dimona," said Dani Paran, the telenovela producer who conceived the new series. "It's about a beautiful young girl who fell madly in love with a young soccer player, who abandoned her in order to play abroad."
More than a decade later, the local beauty has married a Russian oligarch, and at her request he buys the soccer team on which her former lover now plays. Needless to say, her husband is not aware of the real motive - her desire to get her revenge on the man whose baby she aborted years earlier in a poorly equipped abortion clinic, leaving her unable to bear children.
World Cup-winning Argentinean captain Maradona, now in his mid-40s, will play himself on the show, said Paran, and will arrive in "Israel" to make a comeback on the team or perhaps to coach it.
The controversial soccer maestro, renowned (or notorious) for the "hand of God" goal in which he used foul means to score against England in the 1986 World Cup, has undergone drug rehabilitation and shed several dozen kilos in recent years and now hosts a successful talk show. Onscreen, he will have to accustom himself to a host of complicated Israeli social issues ranging from Russian immigration to Arab-Jewish relations (one of the players on the team will be an Israeli Arab).
Paran, who has produced a series of successful Israeli telenovelas - most recently, Telenovela Inc. - told The Jerusalem Post that the connection with Maradona was made through Paran's business partner Yair Dori, an international businessman and producer whose creations include the Argentinean telenovela The Rebels (Hamordim).
"Dori was the first one to bring the Argentinean team and Maradona to Israel, and the two have become friends," Paran explained. "When I suggested to Dori that we bring Maradona on board the production, he said, 'Why not?'"
But it's not actually certain that Maradona will travel to Israel for filming. The producers have not ruled it out, but his scenes are set to be filmed in Argentina.
The fictional soccer team, Paran said, will be "a famous Jerusalem team" - presumably Betar. Former Betar star and coach Eli Ohana may also make a cameo appearance, as will other Israeli sports figures. Dialogue will be in Hebrew, although Maradona will speak Spanish.
Actors Yehuda Levi and Ofer Schechter have been cast in lead roles, but the lead actress has not yet been cast. Filming on the show, which has yet to be named, is to start in January, with the first episodes airing in late February .
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