4 minutes which changed football world
Four minutes which changed the football world
Just about everything has been said of Diego Maradona in thousands of tributes to the Argentine player who died on Wednesday.
Many believe he was the best ever footballer and there is no question he was a national hero, attaining God-like status in his homeland.
Debates over whether Maradona or Pele was the greatest of that era are unhelpful.
Both were extraordinarily gifted players, but they were very different people, with different skills, and Maradona suffered many more problems off the pitch than Pele.
Interestingly, Pele was one of the first to offer his tribute to Maradona, commenting: "I have lost a dear friend and the world has lost a legend."
If you have been watching the television news in the past few days you will probably have seen dozens of times the two goals Maradona scored in Argentina's memorable 2-1 quarter-final defeat of England in the 1986 World Cup.
That match in Mexico is probably one of the most famous games in international football that was not a final.
There have been comprehensive articles in the Bangkok Post concerning Maradona's colourful career, so let's concentrate on that particular match.
It must be remembered that it took place only four years after the Falklands War and there was still considerable tension between the two countries.
Maradona scored more than 300 goals in his career but the two he notched against England on that tumultuous day in June, have been arguably the most talked about in football history.
In the space of four minutes in the second half, he first scored what became known as the "Hand of God" goal, only to follow it with a sublime individual effort that many believe is the "Goal of the Century" in World Cup matches.
As unacceptable as the first goal was, the second was a thing of beauty as Maradona collected the ball in his own half and glided through an admittedly static England defence, leaving Peter Beardsley, Peter Reid, Terry Butcher and Terry Fenwick in his wake before firing the ball past goalkeeper Peter Shilton.
These days he would probably been brought down by a "professional foul" long before he reached the penalty area.
Former England captain Bryan Robson even commented at the time: "Reidy [Peter Reid] might've taken him down on the halfway line if he had realised what was going to happen." But Reid wasn't to know what magic Maradona was about to conjure up.
In fact, Maradona later praised the England team for their fair play, saying other teams would have flattened him once he had started running with the ball.
That was of little consolation to England of course.
Frustrated though they were, even the England players acknowledged the brilliance of the second goal.
Centre half Butcher commented: "I just couldn't get near him -- all I ever saw was his number 10."
Gary Lineker who scored England's goal in that game, called Maradona's effort the best he had ever seen.
He commented: "That was the first time ever I almost applauded on the pitch something the opposition had done."
Commentating on the match for Spanish listeners was the respected Uruguayan broadcaster Victor Hugo Morales and his ecstatic reaction to Maradona's second goal is worth repeating. Here's an extract:
"There's Maradona with two men on him… he goes down the right flank. He's still got it. Genius! Genius! Genius!...Goaaaaaaaal! Goaaaaaaaal! I want to cry. Oh holy God, long live football. What a goal! It is to cry for … Maradona in a memorable run, the best play of all times. Which planet did you come from to leave so many Englishmen behind? Thank you God, for football, for Maradona for these tears, for Argentina 2 England 0."
Tremendous stuff and the commentator was not even an Argentinian.
That match left England fans in a state of mental anguish and confusion.
They were furious at the handball but could not deny the excellence of the second goal.
And deep down, they might even admit that Argentina were the better team on the day.
Understandably, it took a long time for England fans to get over the "Hand of God" incident, although of course it was not the first or last time a player scored a goal with his hand.
Time is a good healer and although it still rankles with some, most England fans now accept that Maradona was a truly gifted player.
Maradona went on to dominate matches throughout the world both at club and international levels.
He almost single-handedly hauled a struggling Napoli team to two amazing Italian league titles.
In doing so, he had to put up with some horrendous tackles. No wonder 60,000 fans showed up just to watch him training where he entertained the crowd with extraordinary displays of "keepy uppy."
Maradona was a brilliant player and most definitely earned all the tributes that have been pouring in.