Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ avenged defeat in the Falklands
With tributes pouring in from all over the world over the sudden death of Maradona, unarguably the magician of football, the game against England in 1986 comes up for the genius of the player and his craftiness. In one match, he showed the sly side of a footballer and the sublime.
At that time and still now, many Britons feel cheated because of the first goal scored by Maradona which, using modern day technology, clearly shows that a shove with the hand was employed to put the ball into the net. Maradona tried to take the ball in the air and in a flicker, he used what appeared, at that time, to be a header but with the hand raised to conceal the head.
Whatever the case, the referee, Ali Bin Nasser from Tunisia, was convinced of the goal, or maybe, he was a die-hard fan of Argentina and wanted to see English pride punctured. Of course there was a reason why an anti-English sentiment was high in 1986. Just four years ago, the Falklands War had been fought and while Britain emerged victorious, the Argentine claim to the islands was seen to be morally right by many across the globe.
Britain's action was deemed imperialistic. As a youngster in his teens, I had the privilege to see both encounters, the Falklands War, as aired on TV and then in 1986, the quarter final match.
It was not a game but a battle:
Just before the 1986 match, there was fevered speculation as to the impact of the emotions of the Falklands War on the game and while the players brushed politics aside, it was evident that politics was never out of their minds, even for a single moment. Football is war where weapons are left aside for skills. As the match took off, it became very clear that while football was being played, the shadows of Falklands hung heavily overhead.
And then came the much talked about 'Hand of God' goal. Was it handball? I was in front of the TV set and felt that it was handball, at least, a push with the hand was there but then, with the heart behind Argentina, the mind quickly dismissed the doubts. They do say, it's all fair in love and war! Interestingly, on that day, 22 June, 1986, hardly anyone in Bangladesh supported England though they were the best side in the tournament after Argentina and could have won the World Cup.
To be honest, England never had such a team since 1966 and a sensational striker like Gary Linekar. But anyway, soon after the controversial goal, Maradona came up with his genuine wizardry to produce what can be called the best goal of the century.
However, while he dribbled past the English players and came towards the goal, the last nudge was possibly from the English defender. Maradona fell due to the tackle but managed a push on the ball which was given more power possibly form the defender's tackle. Anyway, history was sealed; defeat in The Malvinas (The Falklands) was avenged. God sometimes provides opportunities for vendetta in the strangest possible ways. Fortunately, in this encounter, no one was killed.
As for the never ending outrage felt by the English fans, well, they have used duplicity and subterfuge for centuries to plunder and pillage others and therefore, it's only right that at certain times, they have to end up with the short end of the stick.
The England match triggered the Maradona cult:
In South Asia, people are not terribly thrilled or enamoured with total football; they want to see dazzling individual skills with players who entertain the gallery continuing to reserve a special place among the fans. That's exactly why dribblers are always the most clapped on the field. Unquestionably, Maradona was a player made as per the desires of the South Asian football lover.
Before 1986, Argentina had very little following in Bangladesh because in 1978, when they first won the World Cup, only selective matches were shown and in 1982, Maradona was too young to catch attention, plus Argentina was eliminated in the second round. In 1986, after Brazil was ousted by a phenomenal French side, all support went to Argentina and of course their diminutive dynamite.
Maradona did not disappoint and thus began the cult which resulted in euphoric Maradona celebration in Bangladesh. From school notebooks to lollipops to chocolate wrappers to T shirts, all consumer items had the iconic image of Maradona, holding the cup. The craze around Maradona was also the catalyst for a nationwide football mania which produced our own Mradona, Sabbir bin Walid.
Those who grew up in the 80s will still remember Sabbir, the Mohammedan and Bangladesh talisman, who played just like Maradona and had a pivotal role in helping Bangladesh national side, the Red team, win the President Gold Cup in 1990, the first ever international trophy for the country's football. Maradona recovered Argentina's lost pride for losing in the Malvinas War and despite his frailties, will always remain the footballing icon who inspired the game and millions to dream of becoming a footballer.
Diego egging on his players before a match will remain the definite image of the never say die attitude. He thrilled the world, it's time for him to enthral the residents of Olympus�..
Towheed Feroze is a journalist and teaches at the University of Dhaka