Maradona is always high up on the list of the greatest footballers of all time. In debates that rage on about Messi, Maradona, Pele, Ronaldo, and Cruyff there is no clear way to settle it. Some have the most goals, some had the most flare, some had the most trophies. Yet when people discuss Maradona’s contribution to the world of football. They talk about one game in particular. Argentina vs England in the 1986 World Cup quarterfinal.
Maradona was a rising star at the time. In 1982 he had moved from his home country’s most famous team, Boca Juniors, to Barcelona. Here he was set to make his name as the greatest in the world but it did not go to plan. He arrived in Spain for a world record fee but after fighting on the pitches and in the board room he was asked to leave. He went to Napoli a team that had little status in the world or the Italian league. Yet when he arrived he found new aspects to his game and temperament and slowly he dragged Napoli higher in the Serie A table.
When he went to the World Cup in 1986 he had a point to prove. He had been touted as one of the best in the world but had not produced anything remarkable yet. In this tournament, he would.
The match against England was full of suspense. Only a few years earlier Argentina had been at war with England over the Falklands. Tensions were high. The war was a sore point for Argentina who during the war had been led to believe they were winning but were actually being annihilated. The match was a chance for revenge for the team and for the country and tempers were high.
After a tight first half, the second started with one of the greatest moments of controversy in sporting history. Maradona had the ball and crossed it to Jorge Valdano, he then continued to the penalty area. An attempted clearance went wrong and the ball flew in the air over the penalty box. Maradona rose to head it but was up against one of the greatest keepers of all time, Peter Shilton. Maradona rose his hands in what would look like an attempt to protect himself but he used his hand to force the ball towards the goal.
As the footage has now been seen millions of times around the world, it is fair to say it was an obvious error. A clear handball and a free to England. Incredibly the referee and linesman did not see it. The ball went into the net and both teams froze. Everyone knew it was not a goal. Maradona shouted as his teammates to celebrate with him and make the lie a reality. The English chased the referee all the way back to the center circle but the goal stood. Argentina was ahead.
While the goal was full of controversy it was undone moments later when Maradona picked up the ball again. In one of his most famous goals ever he picked up the ball in his own half and ran towards the English goal. He passed five English players before calmly slotting the ball home.
The two goals perfectly summarised the player. There was Diego, the master, the creator, the greatest of all time but there was also Maradona, the rogue, the cheat, the misbehavior, and the womanizer. Maradona would say that Diego could not have got so far in life without the help of Maradona and Maradona could not have survived without Diego. Together they became a force in world football but an enigma that can never truly be crowned the greatest of all time.