Controversy has surrounded Maradona throughout the whole of his professional and personal life. The drugs, the weight, the women, the meetings with Castro etc… Even today, nearly 20 years after he stopped playing football he is still often in the newspapers. But there can be no doubt that he is one of the greatest footballers that the world has ever seen.
But putting aside all of the things that have taken place off the pitch, in England (and possibly many other countries) he is most remembered for one match. The quarter final of the 1986 world cup. A match which showed both sides of his character.
It was an important match for both teams, but more for Argentina, who had lost a war against the United Kingdom in the Falkland Islands four years previously. The English felt confident that they could defeat them on the football pitch like their soldiers had done in the war. They had seen Maradona in the previous matches where he had scored. One of his goals was a volley, he hit a cross from a team mate before the ball had touched the ground. But he not only scored goals, he also helped others to score. In a different game, Maradona back-heeled the ball to a team mate who then scored.
On the day of the game, the Azteca Stadium on the outskirts of Mexico City, seemed more like an oven than a football stadium. There was hostility between both groups of fans, but fortunately no violence. Although the match itself was exciting, it is only remembered for the two goals of Diego Maradona.
The first, showed one side of his character, the second, the other. For the first goal, Maradona made a run from his midfield position towards the England penalty area, whilst his team mates passed the ball towards the right wing. As he reached the penalty area, one of his team mates crossed the ball to him from the right. As the ball was in the air, the England goalkeeper, Peter Shilton came out from his goal to punch it away. But just before he reached it, Maradona jumped to head the ball, but the cross was too high. So he had to intentionally or unintentionally use his hand. The ball went in to the back of the net. Peter Shilton looked at the linesman and the referee, pointing to his hand, waiting for them to give a foul for handball. But the goal wasn't disallowed. Maradona had scored his first goal.
For the second, one of Maradona's team mates passed the ball to him in the Argentinian half of the pitch. He turned with the ball towards the England goal and started to run. He dribbled the ball past the England midfield and defence, avoiding tackle after tackle. He made them look like stone statues. Then it was one on one with the England goalkeeper again. Peter Shilton came out of his goal again, trying to make a save. Maradona moved to his right and hit it passed him. Goal! This time none of the English complained to the referee. They were stunned and embarrassed.
The England striker, Gary Lineker scored a goal after to make the match 2 -1. And towards the end of the match he missed a chance to make it 2 – 2.
Argentina went on to win the match 2 – 1. When asked about his first goal after the match, he said that it was 'the hand of god'. Argentina went on to win the world cup. But it was this match which had turned Maradona in the eyes of the world from being an excellent football player in to a legend.