Hands of God and 'idiot' soccer fansSo what to make of Diego Maradona's admission regarding one of the two most controversial goals in soccer history. It seems that as one of the greatest soccer players ever, if a questionable and somewhat delusional human being, feels obliged to flap his gums incessantly... ever since the drugs ban disgrace at the 1994 World Cup effectively ended his top class career.
In the 1986 World Cup quarterfinal against England, the Argentine star rose up for a high ball against England goalkeeper Peter Shilton and knocked the ball into the net with his hand. Everyone in the stadium and in the television audience saw it go off Maradona's fist. There is no way that the head of Maradona, who's about 5'4" tall with his boots on, could reached above the outstretched frame of the 6'1" Shilton (remembering that goalkeepers are allowed to use their hands). 114,580 spectators saw the handball but not the spectators who most counted: match referee Ali Bennaceur and his two assistants. After the match, Maradona was asked if he was guilty of a handball infraction on the goal, to which he replied that if it was a handball, it was 'the hand of god.'
(Only three minutes after this most dubious goal, he went on a magnificient 70 yard run through the English defense and scored what many call 'the goal of the century.')
In a talk show which he now hosts, Maradona finally explicitly admitted to using his hand to score the infamous goal. This isn't really surprising: players commit infractions all the time, they just don't necessarily expect to get away with it. Especially as something as blatant as punching the ball into the opposing goal.
Maradona said, "The truth is that I don't for a second regret scoring that goal with my hand."
The goal was the decisive blow in Argentina's 2-1 quarterfinal victory. So it might not be surprising to hear him say he doesn't regret scoring a goal which was crucial in helping his side win the 1986 World Cup.
You might not be surprised until you realize that sporting reasons are not why he is proud of the goal.
After the infamous goal, his teammates came over to celebrate. "They were quite timid. They came over to embrace me but it was as if they were saying: 'We've robbed them'," he said. "But I said to them: 'Whoever robs a thief gets a 100-year pardon.'"
He was apparently referring to the Falklands War, fought unsuccessfully by Argentina against the UK to take control of the islands it claimed as its own.
Ironically, Maradona's 70 yard run and goal, only minutes after the 'hand of god' goal, was only possible because of the English sentiment of fair play and their failure to intentionally foul Maradona before he got near the goal area.
Sean Ingle of the UK Guardian reckons that English soccer fans are idiots because the ridiculous prices in English 'footy' would not be possible without fans' agreeing to pay them. One of the most astonishing facts he notes is that the most expensive season ticket for the Spanish side Real Madrid, probably the most prestigious soccer club in the world, goes for the equivalent of US$360. By contrast, the most expensive season ticket in England is that of London side Arsenal, which run about nine times that amount ($3300 for 19 home league matches). Bristol Rovers charge twice as much ($760) as the Spanish giants; Bristol plays in the fourth division (called League Two, the rough equivalent of Class A minor league baseball) of English soccer while Real is a virtual world all-star team.
Update: In the light of obscenely high ticket prices, The Guardian's Paul Wilson reports the un-shocking news that even top-flight English soccer stadia have hosted an awful lot of empty seats this young season.