Maradona’s Hand of God

Diego Maradona’s handball versus England in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. The Hand of God. What’s funny about this play is that Maradona starts it. He dribbles past a few players and he’s going to play a one two with a teammate but they miss control the ball and an English defender strangely seems to try to flick the ball back to the keeper in the air.

Maradona keeps running, having expected a give and go with his teammate and not the English defender….so the soccer ball is in the air and he just, you have to say, cleverly and with that genius he had, puts up his hand. The hand of god is born.

This is what Maradona had to say about it:

“I don’t for a second regret scoring that goal with my hand.”

“Something that just came out of me. It was a bit of mischief.”

From the Two Sides of Maradona, about the two amazing goals he scored that day, one with his hand and one with his foot.

The thing that’s always said about the “Hand of God” goal and the unnamed otherworldly wonder goal that followed it (you know, the one that caused the Argentine commentator to cry, “Little cosmic kite, which planet did you come from, to leave so many Englishmen behind?”—that one) is that they contradict each other.

I disagree. It’s true that externally, they fall at opposing ends of many of the conceptual spectra through which soccer is normally interpreted. One was an act of deceit; one was an act of skill. One was cheating; one was legitimate. And so forth. Have you ever really looked at them, though? Watch them without listening to the received voice-over about good vs. evil and Maradona’s tragic dark side or whatever, and in your bones,

I do not think you will feel a conflict between them. I don’t feel one. It’s what I find so preposterously compelling about them. They should be incompatible, but what you sense instead is that they come from the same deep place. They’re unified by something, and the question of what that thing is, where it leads, is fascinating.