The ball that Diego Maradona handled to score his infamous “Hand of God” goal for Argentina against England in the 1986 World Cup sold at auction on Wednesday for £2 million ($2.4 million).
The white Adidas “Azteca” ball, which was owned by the Tunisian match referee Ali Bin Nasser, had been tipped to fetch up to £3 million ($3.6 million) when it went under the hammer at UK-based Graham Budd Auctions.
It comes six months after the jersey Maradona wore in the historic quarter-final in Mexico City sold at auction for nearly $9.3 million — more than twice the value predicted by Sotheby’s.
The auctioned ball — inspired by the architecture and murals of the Aztec civilisation — was used for the full 90 minutes of the 1986 game between Argentina and England, as it occurred years before the multi-ball system began in football.
The clash saw a heated build-up because of political tensions following the Falklands War in 1982 and came to be defined by two contrasting goals scored by the late Maradona, who died aged 60 of heart failure in November 2020
For the first, Maradona ran into the box, rose with England goalkeeper Peter Shilton and punched the ball into the net.
He later said the goal had been scored “a little with the head of Maradona, a little with the hand of God”.
The second came just four minutes later as Maradona sped past five English players and Shilton to score the “Goal of the Century”, according to a 2002 FIFA poll.
Argentina won the grudge match 2-1 after Bin Nasser let Maradona’s controversial first goal stand, and the team went on to win the World Cup.
Ahead of the sale, Bin Nasser said he felt it was the right time to share the item with the world and expressed hope the buyer — who has not been disclosed — would put it on public display.
The shirt auctioned in May will be on display in Qatar during the 2022 World Cup, which kicks off on Sunday.
Bin Nasser also defended his decision to let Maradona’s contentious first goal stand.
“I couldn’t see the incident clearly. The two players, Shilton and Maradona, were facing me from behind.
“As per FIFA’s instructions issued before the tournament I looked to my linesman for confirmation of the validity of the goal — he made his way back to the halfway line indicating he was satisfied that the goal should stand.
“At the end of the match the England head coach Bobby Robson said to me: ‘You did a good job, but the linesman was irresponsible’.”
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