The ball late Argentinian football legend Diego Maradona used to score his infamous “hand of God” equalizer against England in the 1986 World Cup quarter-finals was sold in auction on Wednesday for nearly $2.4 million (€2.31 million).
The 36-year-old Adidas ball was owned by the game’s referee, Tunisian Ali Bin Nasser. He said ahead of the auction that he felt the time was right for it to be shared with the public. Bin Nasser even expressed hope that the buyer would put it on public display.
The identity of the new owner of the ball has yet to be revealed.
Argentina’s controversial goal, which Bin Nasser allowed as the referee, was one of two Maradona scored in a 2-1 win against England, paving the way for Argentina to win the World Cup that year.
The incident occurred at turbulent times for the two nations’ diplomatic relations, coming just a few years after the 1982 Falkland Islands war, when Britain fought to repel an Argentinian invasion of the islands Buenos Aires calls the Malvinas and still claims.
Maradona died aged 60 in November 2020. The coming Qatar 2022 World Cup, which kicks off next Sunday, will be the first since his passing.
The ‘hand of God’ goal
Maradona scored both goals in Argentina’s 2-1 win in the game against England at the 1986 World Cup.
The first goal was the controversial one. Maradona jumped as if to head the ball but instead punched it past goalkeeper Peter Shilton. England’s players protested to Bin Nasser, but the goal stood.
Maradona joked afterward that it was scored “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God,” and the name for the incident soon stuck.
The second goal was voted FIFA’s “goal of the century” in a 2002 poll. Maradona dribbled the ball from deep in his own half past almost the entire England team, rounding goalkeeper Peter Shilton, and sliding the ball into an empty net.
The tournament launched Maradona as one of the game’s greatest players.
What did the referee say?
The referee revisited this historic game ahead of Wednesday’s auction. He attempted to defend his decision, which was later decreed to be unfair.
“I couldn’t see the incident clearly. The two players, Shilton and Maradona, were facing me from behind,” Bin Nasser was quoted as saying.
He explained FIFA’s instructions for that tournament stipulated that when in doubt, a referee should rely on their linesman for confirmation of the goal’s validity.
“[The linesman] made his way back to the halfway line indicating he was satisfied that the goal should stand. At the end of the match, the England head coach Bobby Robson said to me, ‘You did a good job, but the linesman was irresponsible.'”
The ball is not the only item to have been sold from that famous game.
The shirt worn by Maradona in the same match was sold in May for $9.3 million (€9.5 million), at the time the highest price paid at auction for a piece of sports memorabilia.