The Hand of God Goal by Diego Maradona

Diego Maradona celebrating the "Goal of the Century" at the 1986 World Cup against England, with Terry Butcher seated on the field in dismay

 Dani Yako / Clarín / Public Domain

Diego Maradona's "Hand of God" effort is one of the most controversial goals in soccer history. In Argentina’s 1986 World Cup quarterfinal match with England, ​el pibe de oro ("the golden boy") displayed both the brilliance of a player at the peak of his prowess, and the street urchin tendencies that characterized him throughout his career.

The Goal

Six minutes into the second half, Maradona passed the ball to Jorge Valdano and continued his run from the left into the England penalty area. The pass was intercepted by Steve Hodge. In trying to clear the ball, he skewed it into the penalty area, where Maradona had continued his run, and England goalkeeper Peter Shilton had come out to meet it.

Shilton was favorite to punch the ball clear, however Maradona reached it first. With the outside of his left fist, Maradona knocked it beyond Shilton and into the net. Inexperienced Tunisian referee Ali Bin Nasser and his linesman did not see the infringement, and the goal stood. Terry Fenwick and Glenn Hoddle chased Bin Nasser back to the center circle, but their protests fell on deaf ears.


Maradona later said, "I was waiting for my teammates to embrace me, and no one came. ... I told them, 'Come hug me, or the referee isn't going to allow it.'"

England coach Bobby Robson was in no mood for an embrace. "I saw the ball in the air and Maradona going for it," he said. "Shilton went for it as well but Maradona handled the ball into the net. You don't expect decisions like that at World Cup level."

At the post-game press conference, Maradona claimed it had been scored "un poco con la cabeza de Maradona y otro poco con la mano de Dios" ("a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God.") That was how the goal would come to be known.

For many Argentinians, pick-pocketing the English in this fashion was a deeply satisfying experience. Viveza is deeply enmeshed in the Argentinean psyche, the idea that native cunning and craftiness is something to be proud of. For Robson, it was pure cheating.

“They wouldn't think about the sporting aspect of the game,” he said. “If it gives them a chance of winning and it’s illegal, who cares. Maradona didn't care. He’d actually gone to the crowd for adulation and raised his fists as a superstar, but he was a cheat.”

Genius Soccer Double Play

Maradona went from the ridiculous to the sublime as he put his team up by another point three minutes later.

Receiving the ball from Hector Enrique, just inside his own half, he went past five English defenders—Hodge, Peter Beardsley, Peter Reid, Terry Butcher and Fenwick—before rounding Shilton and sliding the ball in. Valdano was available for a tap in, but Maradona finished the move off alone for one of the greatest goals ever scored.

Although Gary Lineker netted late on, Argentina held on for a 2-1 win. Tension had surrounded the match, because it was the first time the countries had met since the Falklands War. If the game’s protagonists were playing this down, the media certainly were not. Argentina went on to win the 1986 World Cup, beating West Germany 3-2 in the final, and Maradona was named Player of the Tournament.

Resources and Further Reading

Downling, Siobhán. “Maradona Celebrates 20th Anniversary of ‘Hand of God’ Goal.” World Cup Blog, Der Spiegel, 23 June 2006.

Hunt, Chris. The History of the World Cup: World Cup Stories. Interact, 2006.

Lacey, David. “Hand of God Strikes.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media Limited, 22 June 1986.

Maradona Makes a Confession.” Los Angeles Times, 24 Aug. 2005.