Remember this goal? It was the 1986 World Cup. Argentina met England in the quarter-finals. A play developed where Maradona found himself leaping for a header with the opposing goalie fast approaching. When Maradona realized he couldn’t reach the ball with his head, it happened…
England’s goalie, 6’1” Peter Shilton, came running out to clear the ball. He seemed to be a clear favorite to the approaching 5’5” Maradona. Unable to reach the ball with his head, Maradona created the illusion of a header…but ultimately used his hand. It was an illegal play that happened in a split second, but the referee on the day didn’t see it.
Maradona 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.'” Smart cookie he is.
At the post-game press conference, Maradona claimed that he scored the goal “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God” coining the phrase “Hand of God”.
But has he ever truly admitted that he scored one of the most famous goals of all time illegally? Yes….
Much debate has surfaced over the years in reference to this being cheating. I don’t blame Maradona for cheating…not even for a second. He reacted so quickly and so intelligently that he has to be commended for his presence of mind on the field. In my eyes, this shows how creative and how intelligent Maradona was. It is with this same wit that he played the entire game of soccer. His moves, tricks and goals were just as creative as this goal.
Rather than constantly trying to label this as cheating, why don’t we appreciate it for a moment of mastery….brilliance?