Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

World Cup: 25 Years Ago – El Diego made me a football fan (+video)

Posted in International Football by peterbein on June 22, 2011

It has been well documented in the English press that today is the 25th anniversary of Diego Maradona’s infamous “Hand of God” goal in Argentina’s 2-1 victory over England in the 1986 FIFA World Cup. That game brought out the best and worst sides of a player who, in my opinion, was the greatest footballer ever to play the game and it is arguably what “El Diego” did in the whole of that tournament which turned me from indifferent to passionate about the game of football.

Putting it simply, it took a little while for the football bug to bite when I was a kid. My first footballing memory was of seeing Manchester United beat Everton in the 1985 FA Cup final but the game was forgotten as soon as it was over and I didn’t bother with football again until Liverpool FC won the cup twelve months later. Football had begun to creep into my consciousness after Liverpool had won the cup that year, especially as they beat local rivals Everton in the first ever all-Merseyside FA Cup final, but I personally think that, had there not been a World Cup in the summer of that year, that I could’ve forgotten about football again. But when I saw Diego Maradona, in the famous Number 10 shirt of Argentina, pretty much dominate his team and the tournament then that was when I really began to take notice of this Beautiful Game.


The game which gained Maradona worldwide fame was the 1986 FIFA World Cup quarter-final played in Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. El Diego had already been part of the 1978 and 1982 World Cup squads but didn’t get to play a single minute of the former whilst his country suffered a second round exit in the latter. The 1986 tournament had already seen Argentina finish on top of their group – ahead of Italy, Bulgaria and South Korea – and get past eternal rivals Uruguay in the second round, setting up a hugely anticipated clash with England. The stakes would already have been high enough in any case but with relations between the two countries at arguably an all-time low following the Falklands War of 1982 there was an edge to the game which was certainly stronger on the Argentine side.

The game finished 0-0 at the break but it didn’t take long for one of the most controversial moments in the history of the sport to emerge. Six minutes into the second half Maradona, realizing he was not going to win a header against oncoming England goalkeeper Peter Shilton, decided to punch the ball into the net, an incident which none of the match officials spotted. The English players were incensed by the decision to award the goal and the sense of injustice had barely had time to sink in before the English were on the receiving end of one of the all-time great World Cup goals. Maradona, picking the ball up inside his own half, went past four players and rounded keeper Shilton before turning the ball home. If ever a goal was going to make me sit up and take notice then this was it. In the relatively short time that I’d been watching football this game seemed to have it all. The English very nearly came back but could only halve the deficit in the end and Maradona had taken his team to the semi-finals.


As much as the England game proved to be one of the highlights of the tournament, the truth was that Maradona did more than just score those two goals. He went on to help his side defeat Belgium 2-0 in the last four stage, scoring both goals, before setting up Jorge Burruchaga for the match-winning goal in the 3-2 victory against West Germany in the final. The memories of the man and the legend that was Maradona certainly helped play their part in making me the football fan that I am today. I think that if the Hand of God didn’t exist then it would’ve been necessary to invent it.

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