The ball Argentine football star Diego Maradona punched through English keeper Peter Shilton's fists to score the opening goal of the quarterfinal match the eventual champions went past during the Mexico 1986 World Cup sold Wednesday at auction for £2 million (US$2.4 million).
Also known as the Hand of God ball, the white Adidas Azteca item was in possession of the Tunisian match referee Ali Bin Nasser, who put it up for auction at the UK-based Graham Budd Auctions six months after the jersey Maradona wore in that game sold for nearly US$ 9.3 million.
Maradona admitted 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.
The auctioned ball -- inspired by the architecture and murals of the Aztec civilization -- was used throughout the full 90 minutes of the 1986 game between Argentina and England, as it occurred years before the multi-ball system began in football. Hence, it was also the ball Maradona kicked in to score the Goal of the Century -deemed so according to a 2002 FIFA poll- after dribbling past five English defenders. The clash was the first between the two teams after the 1982 Falklands War.
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.
The referee 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'.
Argentina won that game 2-1 and went on to lift the World Cup. Maradona died in 2020 at the age of 60. The upcoming World Cup in Qatar, which starts Sunday, will be the first since Maradona's death.