Football fans are familiar with the famous Hand of God goal at the 1968 World Cup quarter-final match between Argentina and England in Mexico City. The game was arguably one of the most popular of the entire tournament. Heightened expectations were partly because of one man: Diego Maradona.
Maradona, then 25, was at the height of his career. He had just joined Napoli in a historic €6.9 million transfer that rocked the football world. Maradona had justified the huge transfer sum by helping the Serie A side get to third place just two seasons after being signed on.
The 1968 quarter finals stoked tensions between the two countries as they were historic rivals, asides from the fact that the match was going to be the decider of who advances to the semi finals.
The first half of the match ended in a goalless draw, although it was evident that Argentina, who had remained unbeaten throughout their advancement through the group stages, was leading. Soon after the second half started, Maradona scored perhaps the most controversial goal in football history, eventually dubbed the Hand of God goal. Maradona had dribbled past England’s defences, passed the ball to teammate Valdano and then finally knocked the ball into the goalpost — with his hand.
None of the officials saw this, especially referee Ali Bin Nasser. The English players protested what was deemed a foul play, but there was nothing the officials could do because even the replay could not capture the contested moment. Maradona eventually scoring a second goal did not help matters; although, this time, it was entirely free from contention. Argentina would finally get to win that match and, subsequently, the World Cup.
The Hand of God goal is back in the news again. This time, it is not directly connected to Maradona. The referee who had officiated the match, Ali Bin Nasser, had somehow managed to keep the football all those years ago. Nasser plans to sell the ball for €3 million in a public auction. The referee continues to insist, even now, that he did not see the hand goal. The auction, he claims, is because he wants to be a part of international football history.
Some people are unhappy about this development. Gary Lineker is one such person. Lineker had perhaps held a grudge since 1968 when he was part of the English team defeated by Argentina and had scored the lone goal for England. While appearing on TalkSport, Lineker said:
“How the hell did the referee end up with the ball? Am I over it? Yeah, of course, I am. Not. I’m so thrilled the ref will cash in on his cock-up.”
Lineker’s fury and Nasser’s mistake aside, most sports lovers still look to the 1968 World Cup as one of the best the world has ever witnessed.