Diego Maradona is undoubtedly one of the football's best players and his exploits on the field have carried him into the realm of legend. However, does being a legend mean it is OK to cheat? He obviously thought it did during the 1986 quarter final against England with his 'Hand of God' goal, that wasn't a goal. Being a legendary player should not put him above the rules of the game and clearly, he knew he had touched the ball with his own hand. So why say God did it? Why cheat? And did the goal that wasn't really a goal, inspire him to score the Goal of the Century in the same game, a few short minutes later?
An avenging warrior
The legit goal he scored in the 1986 quarter final game against England was later voted the Goal of the Century (2002) and doubtless we will never see a more motivated or talented Argentinian warrior of his calibre on the football field again. So what really happened a few short minutes earlier in that same game in 1986 and is it possible that Maradona saw himself as an Argentinian warrior avenging his country who had suffered defeat at the hands of the British four years earlier in the Faulklands War? There is much international, political rivalry played out on the football field as evidenced by the “Soccer War” between Honduras and El Salvador in the late 1960's – early 1970's and Maradona may well have been inspired to 'go one up' on the Brits in the only way he knew how.
There is certainly no denying that Maradona is a complex personality and fame can often bring delusions of grandeur. However, in Maradona's case, those delusions were likely reinforced as a result of his having grown up in a shanty towns in Buenos Aires. Coming from that background and then being catapulted into the upper echelons of international football as an elite athlete, could easily result in delusional thoughts. Maradona's talent on the field may well have been the result of divine intervention, but the Hand of God Goal certainly wasn't.
The Hand of God goal
The now infamous Hand of God Goal occurred in the fifty first minute of the 1986 World cup quarter final between Argentina and England at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City and has since become part of football history (see video). Diego Maradona scored two goals in that game, three minutes apart. The first was an illegal, non-penalised handball and the second was sheer Maradona brilliance. The non-penalised handball is the goal which has come to be known as the Hand Of God Goal, as a result of Maradona's now famous words after the match when Maradona said the goal had been scored "a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God".
What actually happened was that the England goalkeeper Peter Shilton and Maradona both jumped to reach the ball prior to it's reaching it's intended destination within the goal area. Maradona reached it first and punched it into the goal area with the outside of his left fist. The Tunisian referee, Ali Bin Nasser, did not see the infringement and allowed the goal. The Hand Of God Goal has become one of the most controversial goals ever scored in the World Cup, not only because Argentina went on to win the game, but because they went on to defeat Germany in the final, consequently winning the 1986 World Cup. Maradona's now famous, post match press conference words have ensured that the goal will be remembered for ever.
Should Maradona have denied the goal?
Well clearly, yes. Just as gentlemen who play international cricket will tell the umpire if they did in fact 'edge a ball', so should Maradona have claimed the illegality of his goal. The greater the player, the greater the responsibility to behave in a completely honest and ethical manner. It will never be known why Maradona did not do the right thing, but can only surmise that he genuinely believed the hand of god had touched him by arranging for the referee not to see the indiscretion.
Maradona apologises in 2008
It took twenty two years, but Maradona finally apologised for his indiscretion in an interview with Tom Wells via Maradona's own interpreter in 2008 at the Chelsea Football Club. "We simply asked him, if he had the chance to go back and change the circumstances ... and apologise for what he'd done, and at the same time restore his reputation with all England's fans, would he do it," Mr Wells said. "And he said yes, he said, 'I'd like to go back and change history if I could'."