The Story of... Maradona's 'Hand of God' in the 1986 World Cup

Not many players can claim to have scored football's most controversial goal and "the Goal of the Century" minutes between each other in a World cup quarter final - but Diego Maradona did just that in Mexico on June 22, 1986.

Argentina faced England in Mexico City's Estadio Azteca stadium - four years after Argentina had surrendered to the United Kingdom following the 74-days-long Falklands War, with hundreds dead on both sides.

Maradona illegally hits the ball with
his hand against Peter Shilton of
England at the 1986 FIFA World Cup
in Mexico - today known as the "Hand
of God goal". The photo gave a clear
view of the incident that the referee
had missed

Unsurprisingly, the conflict fuelled tensions in the 114,580-strong crowd. Yet it was in this environment that Maradona would cement his legend, captaining his team to a 3-1 victory over England with two goals that the world would ever forget...

Maradona's second goal - officially dubbed the "Goal of the Century" in a 2002 FIFA survey - happened just four minutes after his first, when teammate Héctor Enrique passed the ball to him some 10 metres inside Argentina's half.

Talking control, the short and stocky Captain began a 60 metre, 10 second dash (more than half the length of the field) towards the English goal... past England's Hodge, Beardsley, Reid, Butcher and Fenwick.

Finally, before a stunned crowd, Maradona finished his move by dribbling around goalie Peter Shilton to make the score 2-0 to Argentina.

England retaliated with a goal from Gary Lineker in the 80th minute, with further narrow misses for both teams... but their fate had been forever sealed.

After the match, 23-year-old England midfielder Steve Hodge exchanged shirts with Maradona - "I thought it was the pinnacle of my career and that [shirt] was my souvenir," he later told the BBC.

But Hodge was at the time oblivious to the controversies which surrounded Maradona's first goal...

"[After scoring] I was waiting for my teammates to embrace me, and no one came. I told them, 'Come hug me, or the referee isn't going to allow it.'" - Diego Maradona

Video footage and photographs of the goal made it plain to see: Maradona had struck the ball with his hand. The evidence was replayed on televisions and printed in newspapers all over the world.

Maradona's audacity continued into the post-match interviews with his claim that the goal had been scored "a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God."

England manager Bobby Robson, in contrast, stated that it was "the hand of a rascal..." - yet Maradona's charisma won, and the goal would forever be referred to as "the Hand of God".

Today, while Maradona's photograph can be found in religious shrines in his native Argentina, his behaviour in the 1986 quarter-final still rankles English fans old enough to remember the day he cheated victory from England.

Such mixed feelings have perhaps contributed to the fate of Hodge's Maradona shirt, which has been left in the former England player's attic for 15 years.

England teammate Terry Butcher told The Times in 2008: "That shirt is the last thing I wanted. I would not even clean my car with it, that is how strongly I feel about it."

Hodge's feelings are more philosophical: "It will never be right [what Maradona did] but we've all, in games, tried things on... I've always blamed the linesmen," he told the BBC.

Despite the conflicting feelings about Maradona's notorious "Hand of God" goal - regarded as symbolic revenge for the Falklands War by some and as bare-faced cheating by others - all football fans today acknowledge him as one of the all-time greatest players.

It's with this acknowledgment that the shirt held in Hodge's attic for 15 year will be displayed in Nottingham Castle, UK, during the World Cup. According to reports, it is insured for £500,000.

Hodge - who has recently published a book called The Man with Maradona's Shirt - reckons that the shirt could bring up-to £200,000 at auction, should it ever be sold.

For now, he and many others believe that it should be exhibited in Wembley Stadium.

Regardless of its price, the shirt remains an invaluable artefact from one of the most spectacular and divisive performances the game has ever known.

Meanwhile, Maradona's ups and downs didn't end with Argentina's 2-1 over England, with a career later blighted by drug abuse and personal problems.

Nevertheless, Maradona last night managed the Argentine national team to a 2-0 victory over Greece, taking them to the next round of the 2010 World Cup. And so his remarkable life story continues...  


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