“The Hand of God”: Celebrating Diego Maradona

“The Hand of God”: Celebrating Diego Maradona

Diego Maradona the hand of God
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“The Hand of God” is a phrase by Diego Maradona he used in describing a goal he scored against England in the 1986 world tournament. The Argentina-England quarter final match had a tense background. With both teams tied at 0-0 at the end of the first half, Diego Maradona turned the game around in the second half. Six minutes into the second half, Maradona passed the ball to his teammates, Jorge Valdano, as the latter tried to dribble past the English defenders. The ball was cleared towards the goal as Diego Maradona chanced on it in the air. Given his short frame, he struggled to get the ball past goalkeeper, Peter Shilton. Both Maradona and Shilton jumped, but the Argentine used his left arm as a support for his short stature to get the ball into the net to give Argentina the lead. The goal generated much controversy and raised eyebrows, but his second goal in the same match was voted FIFA Goal of the Century. The fact that he also pulled a facsimile of the same margin in the semi-final win against Belgium, and going on to clinch the World Cup title for his team was proof that the game of football was not bereft of miracles for the little man. Looking at him, he appeared to have been hit by a lift which he tried to explain as the hand of God. He seemed to know that he was the fulfillment of a prophecy.

Prior to the birth of Diego Maradona, there had always been a contention between Argentina and England in the world of football. Following this, a consensus was agreed that Argentine football stood in sharp contrast with that of Britain, the quasi-colonial power that had largely departed by the start of the first civil war. England football was about power, speed and energy which was learnt on the vast grassy playing fields of British Schools, while that of the Argentines was rugged as they learned the game in the potreros, the vacant lots of slums, where there was no guide to step in if it got rough. For the Argentines thus, the game was about being streetwise, calculative, cunning and sharp. In light of this, Borocotó, editor of El Gráfico, wrote in 1928 that if a statue were to be erected to the soul of the Argentinean game, it would reflect “a pibe [urchin] with a dirty face, a mane of hair rebelling against the comb; with intelligent, roving, trickster and persuasive eyes and a sparkling gaze that seem to hint at a picaresque laugh that does not quite manage to form on his mouth, full of small teeth that might be worn down through eating yesterday’s bread.

“His trousers are a few roughly sewn patches; his vest with Argentinian stripes, with a very low neck and with many holes eaten out by the invisible mice of use … His knees covered with the scabs of wounds disinfected by fate; barefoot or with shoes whose holes in the toes suggest they have been made through too much shooting. His stance must be characteristic; it must seem as if he is dribbling with a rag ball.”

Borocotó was in fact describing Diego Maradona who was yet to be born as at the time he made the above remarks. The Argentine quasi-messianic figure, who was given birth less than half a century later, on 30th of October, 1960, was spotted while playing in his neighborhood club, Estrella Roja, by a talent scout. The youth coach, Francisco Cornejo said, “When Diego came to Argentinos Juniors for trials, I was really struck by his talent and couldn’t believe he was only eight years old. In fact, we asked him for his ID card so we could check it, but he told us he didn’t have it on him. We were sure he was having us on because, although he had the physique of a child, he played like an adult. When we discovered he’d been telling us the truth, we decided to devote ourselves purely to him.”

At the age of 16 (ten days before his birthday), Maradona made his debut in world football. He entered the pitch wearing the number 16 shirt, becoming the youngest player in the history of Argentine Primera Division. Following his debut, he made a nutmeg that became legendary. After the game Maradona stated, “That day I felt I had held the sky in my hands”. This confirms that he was only an instrument in the hands of God; a divine instrument that will be used to change Argentina through football. Maradona went on to do extraordinary exploits in the world of football. His achievements include: Top goal-scorer of the Metropolitan League with Argentinos Juniors (1978-1980); South American Player of the Year (1979); “Olimpia de gold” as the Best Argentine Sportsman of the Year (1979-1980); “The Golden Ball” as the Best Soccer Player of the Year (1979-1981); Spanish League (1983); World Cup (1986); “The Golden Ball” (1986); Italian League (1987, 1990); Top Goal Scorer in Italian League (1988); European Soccer Union Cup (1989); “Olimpia de plata” as the Best Argentine Soccer Player of the Year (1993); “Olimpia de plata” as the Best Argentine Sportsman of the Year (1999); and FIFA Soccer Player of the Century (2000).

It is no wonder he described the 1986 goal as the hand of God which includes every other success he has enjoyed in spite of his background, short and rotund frame, as well as personal flaws that ordinarily should have deterred him. For Maradona therefore, he knew that the hand of God shaped his life: a fatalistic logic that couldn’t be comprehended. It is this same hand we see on 25 November, 2020, which will be a day to remember in the world of sports following the announcement of the death of one of the greatest sportspersons to ever play the game.

Read Also: Sports: Touching Lives Beyond the Facade of Materialism

Diego Maradona was pronounced dead after suffering a heart attack. The Argentine football legend has been in constant battle with his health with numerous trips to hospitals as he turned 60 last month. Early this November, he had been hospitalized. Clinical tests revealed a bleeding in his brain which was operated on successfully. He was only just recovering at his home in Tigre where he suffered a cardiac arrest on Wednesday morning. Paramedics at the scene failed to save him from the cold hands of death that left the world in shock at the news of his demise. The boy from the slums who grew up to be one of the finest footballers of all time has gone to meet his maker: the hand of God in 2020.

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