The ball used by Diego Maradona to score his famous ‘Hand of God” goalis to be auctioned off next week. The ball has been in the possession of the referee in charge of the match between Argentina and England that day, but he has now decided to sell it, not only to donate some of the proceeds for charity, but also to help set up his family for life.
In 1986 Argentina were playing England in the quarter-finals of the World Cup in the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City. Six minutes into the second-half, Maradona initiated a move which ended with the ball dropping down to the diminutive Argentine in the England penalty box.
He contested the ball with England goalkeeper Peter Shilton, who was 8 inches taller than him, and, unseen by the match officials on the field, tipped the ball over Shilton with his hand.
Because there was no VAR technology at the time, referee Ali Bin Nasser awarded the goal, despite the furious protests of the England players.
After the match, which Argentina won 2 -1, Maradona, when questioned by reporters, that the goal was “scored a little with the head of Maradona, and a little with the hand of God.” At the time the forward considered it symbolic revenge for the defeat by Britain in the Falklands conflict four years earlier.
Many years later Maradona confessed that the goal had been scored illegally.
Nasser has no regrets
Nasser has never had any regrets about the decision to allow the goal, arguing that he was hesitant to give it at first, but then glanced at Bulgarian assistant referee Bogdan Dochev, who was better placed, and he confirmed that it was legitimate. The Tunisian also said that FIFA had issued clear directives to referees before a game and that “if a colleague was in a better position than mine, I should respect their decision.”
Dochev died from cancer in 2017, but later maintained that FIFA did not allow assistant linesmen to discuss decisions with match referees.
The Tunisian has said that mistakes happen in football, and that had the match officials had enjoyed the use of technology, they would have seen what happened.
Different perspectives on Maradona
The goal has always clouded English perceptions of Maradona. Whilst they acknowledge his footballing genius, what he did that day in Mexico City has always been regarded as tantamount to cheating in the eyes of many of their fans, and has tarnished his legacy.
Whilst supporters from other countries will often credit Maradona as the greatest player in the history of the game, for the majority of English fans that accolade is reserved for Pelé.
Two years since Maradona’s death
It is now two years since Maradona died at the age of 60, after battling multiple health issues.
When news broke, it led to mass mourning in Argentina, his body lay in state in Buenos Aires, and millions took to the streets as his funeral cortege passed.
Subsequently eight medical personnel are due to face trial on charges of criminal negligence and homicide relating to his death.
Since he died, there has been a booming market for sports memorabilia related to the former footballer.
The shirt that he wore on the day of that quarter-final and which he swapped with England midfielder Steve Hodge at the end of the match, was sold last year at auction by Sotheby’s, and fetched a world record price of £7.14 million, 30% more than estimated.
It went to a mystery buyer.
The previous highest paid for a football shirt of any kind had been the £140,000 paid in 2002 for Pelé’s shirt from the 1970 World Cup final.
In terms of all sports, Maradona’s shirt also broke the auction record for a piece of sports clothing of any kind, which was the £4.7 million paid for a Babe Ruth Yankee jersey in 2019
The Adidas Azteca ball which was used for the full 90 minutes of the match has been kept at home in Tunisia by Nasser ever since, Auctioneers are estimating it could fetch between £2.5 and £3 million, but, if a bidding war starts, that figure could go much higher.
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