Argentinian great Diego Maradona has apologised to English fans for his infamous ‘Hand of God’ goal during the 1986 World Cup quarter-finals. In an interview to the The Sun newspaper, the football legend was quoted as saying:
If I could apologise and go back and change history I would.
But many doubt the need for such an apology after a gap of 22 years. The English fans would never forget Maradona’s public hatred of the fans of the ‘Three Lions’ and how he brought in professional hooligans from Argentina to Mexico in his own chartered flight to violently subdue the noisy fans of England. Maybe the diminutive magician from the back streets of Buenos Aires finally realises that his talent has not been truly recognised by a sport-loving country like England which takes nationalistic pride very seriously.
Apart from the Italia 90 squad, England had probably the best means to shine at the World Cup four years earlier, which came to a premature end due to Maradona’s antics and heroics. The controversy that still surrounds the all important Argentinian first goal which came at a delicate time for England has largely overshadowed Maradona’s famous second goal in which he dribbled past five English players before shooting past Peter Shilton in a moment of sheer greatness. But unfortunately, the goal has not received the same recognition in England that it got around the world and put Maradona right up at the pinnacle of world football.
So why a sudden change of heart for a man who in the same interview with The Sun had not stopped in criticising one of England’s popular sons David Beckham, whom he termed just a ‘good player, nothing more…..’? Maybe he is true but the fact is the same Mr. Beckham was instrumental in knocking Argentina out of the 2002 world cup and has tremendous worldwide recognition both on and off the field. It seems the former Boca Juniors, Barcelona and Napoli stalwart has realised finally the need to be a good boy off the field amidst all the demands of international football.
A lot of debate still takes place regarding the respective greatness of Maradona and Pele. It’s a close call yet the latter’s charity work and his devotion to the game of football post-retirement have put the Brazilian maestro yards ahead of his South American adversary both as a player and a human being. Maradona’s indulgence of cocaine has never helped his cause and to justify his greatness to the world, he has occasionally launched scathing attacks towards Pele and other contemporary players who are regarded greats even with inferior skills compared to the Argentinian sorcerer.
Coming back to his apology towards the English fans, Maradona might make some friends there and if he is lucky enough some unfortunate clubs would come and knock at his door for his untested coaching services. Yet, the bad blood created after the 86 quarter-final clash, which was taking place in the shadow of the bloody Falklands War between the United Kingdom and Argentina would not be healed easily despite the unexpected apology from the man himself who regarded that encounter at that very moment as a revenge against British victory in the Falklands.
English fans, except a few, would never give a damn about what Maradona has to say about his ‘Hand of God’ incident twenty-two years ago on a balmy afternoon in Mexico City.