‘Si necesitas una mano para ganar, que sea la mano de Dios.’ If you need a hand to win, let it be the hand of God.
This is the slogan of a popular lotto scratch-card named Play with Maradona. Proof that in Argentina, they don’t only defend Diego Maradona’s Hand of God goal, they celebrate it.
The infamous goal, which Maradona scored against England in the quarter finals of the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, went unpunished by Tunisian referee Ali Bin Nassar, and stands as one of the most controversial goals of all time.
The scene is one etched into the minds of many. The fifty first minute, England Midfielder Steve Hodge’s failed clearance sends the ball looping into the penalty area. Goalkeeper Peter Shilton comes out to punch it away, but the 5ft 5in Maradona jumps above him, reaches out with his hand, and fists the ball into the back of the net. He lands, throws a cheeky glance over his shoulder at the referee, and then runs off in celebration, encouraging his teammates to embrace him before the goal is disallowed.
Although the commentator in Argentina, Victor Hugo Morales, immediately shouted handball, he then energetically screamed goaaaaaaaaaaaaal while English players surrounded the referee in protest. ‘Against England today, a goal with the hand, what do you want me to say!’ he said.
For England fans, this blatantly illegal act made Maradona nothing but a cheat. But in Argentina, the goal is considered a work of art. With the Falklands War (La Guerra de Las Malvinas) lost only four years earlier in 1982, the star player getting one back on the English with a handball, was genius.
Love him or hate him, one undeniable act of brilliance was Maradona’s explanation after the game. ‘A little with the head of Maradona, and a little with the hand of God.’ Admit it was deliberate handball, and he’s a cheat, deny it and he’s a liar. Make it the work of God, and he’s a hero.
Add his second goal, voted the goal of the century in 2002, when he dribbled from his own half passing six English players, and with one game, Maradona became an Argentine legend. (La mano de Dios - Hand of God song in tribute to the goal).
Born on October 30th 1960 in a shantytown in Lanus, a city just south of the capital, Buenos Aires, Diego Maradona started his career with Argentinos Juniors before moving to Boca Juniors. He played for FC Barcelona in Spain and then Napoli in Italy before returning to Argentina.
Despite a constant battle with drugs and numerous personal problems, Maradona remains an icon in Argentina, where even those who dislike his personality, respect his sporting success.
He is renowned for saying exactly what he thinks, and has recently run into problems with the Argentine press over criticism of his leadership as Argentine national coach. Needing to beat Uruguay to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, Maradona revelled in the 1-0 victory last week telling journalists in a live post match broadcast to ‘suck him off and keep sucking him off’.T shirts with the slogan are already on sale.
Some might say his poor managerial skills and consistent problems in public would be too much for the Argentine people to take. But it seems that the man who scored the Hand of God is too iconic to criticise. He's Maradona, and he'll always be the greatest player who ever lived.