screwed off

Hand of God goal

The Hand of God goal (La Mano de Dios) was scored as the result of an illegal (but unpenalised) handball by Diego Maradona in the quarter-final match of the 1986 FIFA World Cup between England and Argentina, played on 22 June 1986 in Mexico City's Estadio Azteca. Argentina won 2–1.


The long-term rivalry between the two footballing nations can be traced back to the controversial sending off of Argentine captain Antonio Ubaldo Rattin in the England-Argentina match of the 1966 World Cup; Argentina were knocked out of the tournament, while England went on to win the championship. In 1986, when England and Argentina met in the quarter-finals, tensions were running particularly high between the countries, due partly to the Falklands War, which had taken place just four years earlier. This Argentine win, like that of the English 20 years earlier, was en route to winning a World Cup championship.


Six minutes into the second half, the score was 0–0. Maradona cut inside from the right flank and played a diagonal low pass to the edge of the area to teammate 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 (who swapped shirts with Maradona after the game) 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 duly came out of his goal to punch the ball clear, with his considerable height (6'1" or 185cm) making him clear favourite to beat Maradona (5'5" or 165cm) to it. However, Maradona reached it first—with the outside of his left fist. The ball went into the goal, and the referee (Tunisian Ali Bin Nasser), not having seen the infringement, allowed the goal.

Many people did not initially realize it was a handball. Some television commentators thought the objections of the English defenders were claims for offside (Maradona could not have been offside because the previous person from Argentina to have touched the ball was himself), and it was only clear from other camera angles—not the original one—that there had been an offence.

The Argentine players and fans celebrated (video shows Maradona looking toward the referee; he later said "I was waiting for my teammates to embrace me, and no one came . . . I told them, 'Come hug me, or the referee isn't going to allow it.'" ) while the English players protested to no avail.

Incidents of players seeking to gain an advantage by skirting the laws of the game, in the hope that the referee does not see, are common. This incident has derived its notoriety largely from the importance and closeness of the match, the animosity between the nations, and the responses of Maradona and the English media.

Rest of the match

Five minutes later, Maradona scored another goal, voted in 2002 as the Goal of the Century, in which he eluded five English outfield players (Hoddle, Reid, Sansom, Butcher (twice) and Fenwick), as well as Shilton. England scored through Gary Lineker in the 81st minute, but Argentina won the match 2–1.

Initial denial and reaction

At the post-game press conference, Maradona exacerbated the controversy further by claiming 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), coining one of the most famous quotes in sport. Video and photographic evidence demonstrated that he had struck the ball with his hand, which was shown on television networks and in newspapers all over the world.

Very little criticism or complaint was made against referee Ali Bin Nasser or the Bulgarian linesman, Bogdan Dochev.

For the next few days, the English press referred to the incident as "The Hand of the Devil." Maradona remained unpopular with the English press for many years. When he was later banned from football for cocaine use, the tabloid newspaper The Sun stated in a headline "Dirty Diego Gone For Good!"

In response to this incident and the reaction, Bobby Robson launched the "Fair Play Programme" in 1993.

Subsequent admission

In his autobiography, Maradona admitted that the ball came off his hand:
Now I feel I am able to say what I couldn't then. At the time I called it "the hand of God." What hand of God? It was the hand of Diego! And it felt a little bit like pickpocketing the English. (Yo soy el Diego, by Diego Armando Maradona. 2000, Editorial Planeta, p132 ISBN 84-08-03674-2).

In 2005, on his television talk show, Maradona attempted to justify the goal as a response to the UK's victory in the Falklands War, quoting the popular Spanish saying: "Whoever robs a thief gets a 100-year pardon." During a televised interview with Maradona in 2006, Lineker said, in reference to the goal, "Personally, I blame the referee and the linesman, not you."

In a January 2008 interview for The Sun, Maradona spoke of the politeness of the English, saying "If I could apologise and go back and change history I would," but a few days later, in Argentina, he denied that this amounted to an apology for the goal.

In popular culture

  • Following a 1997 chess match against the computer Deep Blue, which he felt had been tainted by human interference, world chess champion Garry Kasparov compared the match to the 1986 England–Argentina game, stating in a press conference that "Maradona called it the hand of God".
  • England's victory against Argentina in the 2002 World Cup was celebrated with T-shirts displaying the result and the phrase "Look, no hands!"
  • There is a song by The Business that deals with the "Hand of God" goal, entitled "Handball" on their Welcome to the Real World album. The Business also has a song called "Maradona", in which they insult the player.
  • In 2006, a sports bar in Ayr, Scotland was designed as a tribute to Maradona. Scotland and England are well known for their long-standing football rivalry. The Hand of God Sports Bar is staffed by employees wearing Argentina football strips and features wall-length murals of the goal.
  • Some months after the match, Argus Press Software released a Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum game called Peter Shilton's Handball Maradona!, a goalkeeper simulator taking its name from the infamous event.
  • In the Hands of the Gods is a film reference to the incident.
  • In the film Mike Bassett: England Manager the pivotal match set as the film's climax sees England facing elimination from the World Cup at the hands of Argentina. As the game comes to a close at 0-0, an England player manages to score with a handball even more obvious than Maradona's. When one of the commentators states he used his hand, his colleague replies 'Against Argentina? Never'.
  • The band Fall Out Boy have a demo song titled, "The Hand Of God (World Cup 1986)"
  • The Tartan Army sing a version of the Hokey Cokey in honour of the goal.

See also


External links

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