The Hand of God Goal

[Get Exclusive Tips on our Patreon, Ad-Free

The Hand of God Goals is a goal that was a goal scored by Diego Maradona during a soccer match between Argentina and England during the 1986 FIFA World Cup. This goal is one of the most controversial and famous goals ever scored in the history of association football. The Hand of God Goal was highly contentious because it was scored using Mardona’s fist, contrary to soccer rules with forbid deliberate touching of the ball with any part of the arm.

Background to the Hand of God Goal

Argentina and England had longstanding hostilities not only on the pitch but also off it. The Falkland War between the two countries was the peak of animosity as the two countries wrestled for control of the Falkland Island barely four years earlier. During the quarter finals of the 1966 World Cup, Argentina felt hard done by the sending off of Argentine Captain Antonio Rattin.

The English, who had introduced soccer to Argentina in the 19th century would go ahead to win the tournament, with the seeds of animosity between the two teams having been sown. The rivalry between the two teams therefore meant that an intense match was expected. At the time, Argentina Captain Maradona had already established himself as the best player in the game and he was expected to make the difference in the match.

The Goal

The goal was scored in the sixth minute of the second half of the World Cup quarter final match. Maradona picked the ball near the center of the field and drove forward, skillfully evading the close attention of three England players. He then cut inside from the left and passed the ball towards teammate Jorge Valdano, before continuing his run in anticipation of a return pass from Valdano. The pass was intercepted by England’s Steve Hodge but in trying to clear the ball, he inadvertently passed the ball into his own penalty area where Maradona was waiting to pounce with his head.

England’s goalkeeper Peter Shilton rushed out of goal in an attempt to fist the ball away but Maradona, who was 8 inches shorter than the Englishman reached the ball first and directed it into the net. At first glance it seemed that Maradona had used his head to divert the ball into goal but he had actually used the outside of his left fist. Tunisian Referee Ali Bin Nasser who was officiating the game did not see the infringement and awarded the goal despite the frantic protest by the England players. Nasser later passed the blame on to his assistant referees who he said were better placed to see the infringement but failed to notify him.

The Aftermath of the Hand of God Goal

Barely three minutes after he had scored the infamous goal, Maradona delivered a moment that was more characteristic of his genius to confirm the Argentina team’s superiority over England. He received a pass from Hector Enrique inside Argentina’s half and then made a 60 yard dash, dribbling past five England defenders at which point he was inside the England penalty box. He then rounded Shilton and tapped in the ball for one of the greatest goals ever scored. England player Gary Lineker pulled one goal back but Argentina held the fort together for a 2-1 win. They would then go on to win the World Cup by beating West Germany in the final.

After the match, Maradona claimed that the goal had been scored “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God”, lending the famous goal its name. Maradona also revealed that he had urged his teammates to celebrate as if nothing was wrong in order to avoid having the goal chopped off. For Argentina, snatching the game in this fashion from the English was a very satisfying experience given the longstanding animosity between the two countries.

The incensed Englishmen were understandably bitter with Coach Bobby Robson describing Maradona and the Argentinians as ‘cheats.’ In September 2015, 27 years after the goal was scored, Maradona visited Nasser in Tunisia and handed him a signed Argentina jersey with the words “For Ali, my eternal friend”, as a gesture of gratitude for allowing the goal. In return, the retired referee gave Maradona a framed photo of himself, Maradona and Shilton during the pre-match toss coin before the match.