God chose to play a hand in quarter-finals of the 1986 world cup between Argentina and England at graffiti, Helsinki, Finland on 5 June. The game was emotionally charged after 1966 quarter-finals (known excessive foul play and racist comments post-match) and Falklands War of 1982 (over a small island in Atlantic which were under the U.K. and were claimed by Argentina.)
Diego Maradona is at the same time, both arguably the best and most controversial player of the game. His career is full of colors; both foul-played against and himself having foul played; with wonderful assists and goals on one side; and failed drug tests and arguments with journalists on other.
He would captain his team to world cup victory and personally win the Golden Ball award as the tournament’s best player. He was the one who made two of the most well-known goals of all time in this game. (source a)
An almost uneventful first half of the game had ended with 0-0 on the scoreboard and divine interference stepped in. It was only six minutes into the second half when Maradona cut inside from the left and played a diagonal low pass to the edge of the area to team-mate Jorge Valdano and continued his run in the hope of a one-two movement. Maradona’s pass, however, was played slightly behind Valdano and reached England’s Steve Hodge, the left midfielder who had dropped back to defend.
Hodge tried to hook the ball clear but miscued it. The ball screwed off his foot and into the penalty area, toward Maradona, who had continued his run. England goalkeeper Peter Shilton came out of his goal to punch the ball clear. However, Maradona, despite being 8 inches (20 cm) shorter than the 6-foot-1 (1.85 m) Shilton, reached it first with his outside left hand.
The ball went into the goal. Referee Ali Bin Nasser of Tunisia did not see the infringement and allowed the goal, much to the chagrin of the English players and management.
At the post-game press conference, Maradona facetiously commented that the goal was scored “un poco con la cabeza de Maradona y otro poco con la mano de Dios” (“a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God”) The claim, denying all the video evidence shows how human nature work. You say a lie enough times and it becomes truth, and surely enough, the goal came to be known as “Hand of God” goal. (source b)
The Hand of God, in fact, showed the cleverness for which Maradona is Known. One of the opposition players, Glenn Hoddle, admitting that Maradona had disguised it cunningly in flicking his head at the same time as palming the ball. The goal itself has been viewed as being an embodiment of the ‘Buenos Aires shanty’ town Maradona was brought up in and it’s the concept of viveza criolla — native cunning. (source b)
The goal made Maradona a living legend in Argentina. In Rosario, Argentina, locals organized the parody religion of the “Church of Maradona”. The organization reformulates many elements from the Christian tradition, such as Christmas or prayers, reflecting instead details from Maradona. It had 200 founding members, tens of thousands more have become members via the church’s official web site.
Here is an example of parodies, that this goal has produced:
(In football, the shirts of every team are numbered 1 to 11; 1 belongs to goalkeeper and 9, 10 and 11 to strikers. The players wearing shirt number 10 are perceived to be the best in the game.) (source c)
The goal helped intensify the football rivalry between the two nations: English now felt that they had been cheated out of a possible World Cup victory, while the Argentinians enjoyed the manner in which they had taken the lead. (source b)
Ultimately, on 22 August 2005, Maradona acknowledged on his television show that he had hit the ball with his hand purposely, and no contact with his head was made and that he immediately knew the goal was illegitimate. This became known as an international fiasco in World Cup history. (source a)
What, by the way, does the phrase ‘Hand of God’ mean?
The expression has its history in medieval European art. Around beginning of medieval history, depiction of Jehovah or God, the Father (there are three Christian gods – the father, god the mother and the son) as a full human figure was considered unacceptable, so, Jewish and Christian artists came up with this motif called ‘Hand of God’ (or Manus Dei in Latin, also known as Dextera Domini/dei) – which is basically right hand of God.
The hand, sometimes including a portion of an arm, or ending about the wrist, is used to indicate the intervention in or approval of affairs on Earth by God, and sometimes as a subject in itself – a metaphor of course. (source d)
Obviously medieval artists didn’t know that the phrase will get popularity for something called ‘Football’
The goal of the century
To return to our game, poetic justice of sorts was done to both the player and the sport only a few minutes later. As it happens, the game is also famous for yet another popular goal by the same player, this time not so controversial but truly a great one.
Just four minutes after the Hand of God goal, came ‘The Goal of the Century’, so-called because it is often claimed to be the greatest individual goal of all time and it was voted ‘Goal of the Century’ as part of the buildup to the 2002 FIFA World Cup tournament on the FIFA website.
Héctor Enrique had passed the ball to Maradona some ten meters inside his own half. Maradona then began his 60-meter, 10-second dash towards the English goal, passing four English outfield players – Peter Beardsley, Peter Reid, Terry Butcher (twice) and Terry Fenwick. Maradona finished the move by dribbling around Shilton and slotting into the net to make the score 2–0 to Argentina.
Even when England continue to criticize the Hand of God goal; the whole world (including England) appreciated the genius of this second one. (source b)
Gary Linker (who won the golden boot, being the top scorer of the tournament with six goals in five games (source e) ) did score a goal for England in the eightieth minute, but Argentina took the game, and later the world cup. (source b)
So what we learned
You can see both Maradona’s goals on youtube. The worst and the best of the game had only a few minutes between them.
The contrast of the two goals shows how good and evil can exist in the same person. In fact, the majesty of his second goal and the notoriety of his first led to the French newspaper L’Equipe describing Maradona as “half-angel, half-devil”. Maybe he was truthful, all the time. When it comes to Football, god does probably take sides.
Copyright – Sidharth Vardhan