- This image captures Diego Maradona’s notorious ‘hand of God’ goal in 1986
- The goal set Argentina en route to a quarter-final win over England
- Maradona backs VAR technology that would, he admits, have ruled it out
"A little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God.”
It is perhaps the most famous description of any goal, and it was applied by Diego Maradona to the effort captured above. Replays, of course, later proved that his head had been a less significant part of the equation than he initially suggested.
“It was probably the best piece of fraud you will ever see - and he got away with it," lamented Terry Butcher, one of the England defenders left to protest in vain. Butcher would, of course, go on to be beaten not once but twice en route to Maradona’s magnificent, much-celebrated second in that 1986 quarter-final. But for all that latter goal’s unparalleled brilliance, 'the hand of God’ has proved just as enduring.
As recently as the Final Draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, presenter Gary Lineker – another England player that day – made a light-hearted reference, remarking that Maradona, a Draw Assistant in Moscow, “always has been good with his hands”.
Yet perhaps more surprising than the ongoing obsession with this notorious goal is that Maradona is a passionate advocate of technology that would have rendered it impossible. After all, in an interview with FIFA.com last July, the Argentina icon gave unequivocal support to the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system, which will be utilised for Russia 2018.
“Football can’t fall behind,” he told us. “People get annoyed when something that shouldn’t be given is given, or when you have a goal wrongly disallowed. Technology brings transparency and quality, and it provides a positive outcome for teams who decide to attack and take risks.”
The only risks that go unrewarded, of course, are the kind Maradona took – and referee Ali Bin Nasser failed to notice - on that hot afternoon in the Azteca. But even the fact that VAR would have denied him such an important goal does not dissuade him from backing it,
“Obviously I think about [that goal] whenever I show my support for the use of technology,” he said with a laugh. “I’ve thought about it and, sure, that goal wouldn’t have stood if technology had been around. And I’ll tell you something else: at the 1990 World Cup I used my hand to clear the ball off the line against the Soviet Union. We were lucky because the referee didn’t see it. You couldn’t use technology back then, but it’s a different story today.”
And that different World Cup story – still thrilling, but hopefully a little less controversial - will unfold for the first time in just a few short months.
Did you know?
One of Maradona’s shirts from Mexico 1986, with hand-written greetings from the great man, is among the unique items on show in the FIFA World Football Museum in Zurich.