The blue-and-white wall of Argentina fans launched into another rendition of their World Cup anthem as fulltime approached at Lusail Stadium. “Maradona,” they sang, “is cheering Lionel on” from heaven. The parallels between the two all-time greats of Argentine soccer, Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi, are becoming ever more striking in Qatar. Just like the 1986 World Cup seemed to be a highlight reel for Maradona, Messi has made his mark on this tournament with a string of spectacular goals and assists, carrying Argentina’s class of 2022 into the final. There have always been echoes of Maradona in Messi — his size, his dribbling skills, his quick feet, his wand of a left foot. Add in the leadership and fighting qualities he has shown throughout the tournament and it really does feel like Messi is imbued with the spirit of Maradona as he closes in on soccer’s ultimate prize. “Messi is playing the Maradona role in the World Cup,” Jorge Valdano, who was in Argentina’s victorious World Cup squad in 1986, said in an interview to TyC Sports channel. That was clear to see in Messi’s latest stirring performance as Argentina beat Croatia 3-0 on Tuesday to advance to the World Cup final for the sixth time. Read more: ‘To finish this way is brilliant’: Messi’s last dance, last chance for World Cup glory And nothing encapsulated his magnificence more than his assist for the third goal, scored by Julian Alvarez. Receiving the ball on the touchline just inside Croatia’s half, Messi lifted the ball over the challenge of Josko Gvardiol and sprinted down the right flank. Gvardiol chased him, constantly grabbing the jersey of the Argentina captain, and was then bewitched as Messi dropped his shoulder and swiveled the other way to turn and burst into the area. Then came the simple cross with his right foot that Alvarez swept home. It was another moment of magic in a tournament that has been full of them by Messi. “Personally,” Messi said, “I can say that I feel very happy in this whole World Cup. I am enjoying it a lot and luckily enough I can help my whole squad to make things happen.” After the match, an Argentine reporter conducting a post-match interview with Messi broke off from asking questions and told him that, whatever happened in the final, he had succeeded in making a mark on every Argentine’s life and was bringing joy to the country. And for Messi, it is now about more than just winning soccer matches. “It is no longer only the result but the road we have traveled,” he said. “Before in Argentina, it was valued to win or lose, but I think people now value other things.” That may be so, but winning the World Cup would cement his legacy, allowing him to join Pele and Maradona in the pantheon of soccer’s greatest players. He might be there already, but being a World Cup winner would end the debate. Messi reiterated that this would most probably be his last dance at a World Cup — he will turn 39 during the 2026 tournament in the United States, Canada and Mexico. And he’s been doing plenty of dancing, on the field after matches and in the locker room, as Argentina has rebounded with five wins following a shocking loss to Saudi Arabia in its World Cup opener. “It was an acid test for this whole squad but this squad proved how strong we are,” Messi said. “We won the next matches. It was very difficult what we did because every match was a final and this was a mental load because we knew things would be more complicated for us. “We managed to win five finals and I hope it will be this way for the last game. Internally, we were confident that we would make it because we know what we are capable of as a squad.” Read more: Special record that Messi can break if he plays in FIFA World Cup 2022 final After the victory over the Netherlands in the quarterfinals, Messi said Maradona — who died two years ago — was looking over the team as Argentina came through a heated, fiery match. “Diego is watching us from heaven,” Messi said. “He is pushing us. I hope it stays like that until the end.” Well, Messi will be there at the end. And he is doing his very best impression of Maradona along the way.
Football has “The Catch,” baseball has “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World,” and basketball has “The Block.” For soccer, it is Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” – a sporting moment captured in time, the mere mention of which can conjure up strong emotions among supporters. Such is its legacy, that some 36 years after bouncing into the back of the net, the soccer ball involved was sold at auction on Nov. 16, 2022 for US$2.4 million. So why does this goal, which should not even have been a goal, carry so much significance? As an economist who studies sport, I’ve long believed that you have to grasp the cultural significance to understand the financial dimension of sports. This goal was one of soccer’s most iconic events for a number of reasons. 1. It’s about the controversy The goal in question was scored by Argentinian great Maradona against England in the quarterfinals of the 1986 World Cup. It was the second half, no goals had been scored, and Argentina’s team was passing the ball around the edge of the England penalty box. England midfielder Steve Hodge tried to clear the ball but only succeeded in kicking high above the goalkeeper. Normally one would expect the goalkeeper to catch it, especially against the 5-foot-5-inch Maradona. But somehow the ball ended up in the back of the net. At first, it seemed that Maradona had headed the ball, but replays clearly showed him steering the ball with his clenched fist. This was three decades before the use of video assistant referee, or VAR, in soccer. There was no way to review. The referee’s vision was blocked, and he looked to the linesman for guidance – but the linesman saw nothing wrong, and the goal was allowed to stand. Read more: Diego Maradona: A year without the Argentine Legend Speaking after the game, Maradona told reporters that the goal was scored “un poco con la cabeza de Maradona y otro poco con la mano de Dios,” or in the English translation, “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God.” The phrase stuck, and with it the legend of the goal. 2. It’s really about that second goal The Argentina team of 1986 was not a great team. Rather, it was an average team combined with the greatest player in the world at the time, and many would say the most talented footballer ever to grace a pitch. England were probably a better team if you took Maradona out of the game. So that is what England’s defenders tried to do: shut him out by fair means or foul. England’s plan was to make it the responsibility of almost every player on the field to track him and try to stop him from advancing. They tried, but it was impossible. Four minutes after the first goal, Maradona took the ball and at lightning pace skipped past three defenders and the England goalkeeper to score again. The goal was voted “the goal of the [20th] century” in a 2002 FIFA poll. Argentina would go on to win the final in what is still known as “Maradona’s World Cup.” 3. No, it’s all about Argentina’s revenge! There was no escaping the political context of the game – or the goal. In 1982, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, or Las Malvinas – the name you use determines your allegiance – a British overseas territory some 300 miles off the Argentinian coast. The islands had been occupied by the British since 1833, and former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher cemented her image as “The Iron Lady” by sending a military task force 8,000 miles across the Atlantic to recapture the islands. The U.K. claimed its primary motivation was respecting the self-determination of the islanders, but valuable fishing rights and a seat at the table in the administration of the Antarctic were also at stake. Among the neutrals, there was considerable sympathy for the Argentine cause in what seemed like an anachronistic act of colonial imperialism by the British. The humiliation for Argentinian generals likely hastened the end of the military dictatorship and the restoration of democracy in Argentina. But it bred resentment against the English – Argentinians believe in their heart that Las Malvinas belong to them, not to Britain – and that colored the build-up to the 1986 game, as Maradona later recalled in his memoir “Yo Soy El Diego,” or “I Am The Diego:” “Somehow we blamed the English players for everything that had happened, for everything that the Argentinian people had suffered … we were defending our flag, the dead kids, the survivors.” 4. OK, it’s because Diego Maradona really is the GOAT Few players have stamped their presence on a World Cup quite like Maradona. His performance in the England game stands as a memorial to his greatness, and the phrase “Hand of God” neatly puts his name in the same sentence as divinity. It wasn’t a one-off – the entire tournament became a showground for his outrageous skill – and he fittingly raised the trophy at the end. Read more: Diego Maradona has surgery on right knee But Maradona – who died in 2020 at age 60 – was also a troubled genius. A child of the slums of Buenos Aires, he never lost the anxiety that he would not receive his due. He became addicted to drugs – potentially as a result of all the painkillers he needed to keep playing in an era in which defenders were prone to bone-crunching tackles – and struggled with cocaine. He was frequently abusive toward the media, was accused of assaulting one girlfriend, and he was alleged to have close connections to the mafia. But for most soccer enthusiasts, none of this really detracts from his greatness as a player. There are simply some players – a very small number indeed – whose story transcends right and wrong and whose acts are forever remembered like the heroes of ancient Greek epics. Maradona is one such player. Like Achilles or Odysseus, his name will live on, remembered in the “Hand of God” goal.
The ball used when Diego Maradona scored his “Hand of God” goal against England at the 1986 World Cup has been put up for auction by the Tunisian referee who was in charge of the game and missed soccer’s most famous handball. Graham Budd Auctions said Thursday that they expect the 36-year-old Adidas ball, which referee Ali Bin Nasser owns, to fetch between $2.7 million and $3.3 million when it goes up for sale in Britain on Nov. 16, four days before the World Cup in Qatar kicks off. The goal that gave Argentina a 1-0 lead in the quarterfinal against England in Mexico City has become part of World Cup legend. Maradona jumped as if to head the ball but instead punched it past goalkeeper Peter Shilton. England players protested to Nasser but the goal stood. Maradona quipped afterward that it was scored “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God,” leading to its iconic name. Read: Maradona's stolen watch recovered in India Maradona used the same ball, the only one used in the quarterfinal, for his brilliant second goal four minutes later. The Argentina great ran 68 meters from his own half and weaved his way past half the England team before slipping the ball past Shilton. That goal was voted the World Cup Goal of the Century in 2002. Argentina won the game 2-1 and went on to lift the World Cup, and the tournament launched Maradona as one of the game’s greatest players. Maradona died in 2020 at the age of 60. “This ball is part of international football history,” Nasser said in a statement from Graham Budd Auctions. “It feels like the right time to be sharing it with the world.” The shirt worn by Maradona in that game against England was sold for $9.3 million at an auction in May, which was at the time the highest price ever paid at auction for a piece of sports memorabilia. The record was beaten by a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle baseball card, which sold for $12.6 million in August. Nasser will also auction the referee shirt he wore for the quarterfinal, Graham Budd Auctions said, and another shirt that Maradona signed for his “eternal friend” at a reunion years after the game.
Believe it or not, Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona's stolen limited edition Hublot wrist watch has been recovered by police in India. The watch worth around two million Indian rupees that was stolen from Dubai was, in fact, found in the possession of a resident in the northeastern state of Assam this morning. The accused recently returned to India from Dubai, where he worked. State Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma took to Twitter to announce the recovery. Also read: Diego Maradona: A year without the Argentine Legend "In an act of international cooperation @assampolice has coordinated with @dubaipoliceHQ through Indian federal LEA to recover a heritage @Hublot watch belonging to legendary footballer Late Diego Maradona and arrested one Wazid Hussein. Follow up lawful action is being taken," he tweeted. Widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of football, Maradona was popular as "The Golden Boy" of the sport. Maradona who played in four FIFA World Cup died in November last year. Also read: For Napoli fans, the team is a religion and Maradona is god
Tens of thousands of fans, many weeping but eager to honor Diego Maradona, filed past the coffin of Argentina’s most iconic soccer star on Thursday, some confronting police who tried to maintain order at the country’s presidential mansion.
Not only the sports world, many celebrities across the globe, including in Bangladesh, are struggling to reconcile with the sudden loss of Argentine football legend Diego Maradona.
Argentinian football legend Diego Maradona remains sedated and under observation by a team of more than 10 doctors following brain surgery, his lawyer said on Saturday.
Diego Maradona's Gimnasia y Esgrima kept alive their hopes of remaining in Argentina's top division next season with a 1-0 home victory over Atletico Tucuman on Saturday.
When Lionel Messi climbs up the steps from the moat surrounding the field at the San Paolo Stadium on Tuesday and emerges into the Champions League spotlight, he'll be stepping onto sacred ground.