A former teammate of Diego Maradona has revealed that the Argentina legend practised his infamous 'Hand of God' goal before unleashing it against England at the 1986 World Cup
In the quarter-final of the competition, Maradona challenged goalkeeper Peter Shilton in the air and managed to 'head' the ball into the back of the net. England protested that Maradona had used his hand, but officials had not seen it and allowed the goal to stand.
It's perhaps the most famous goal in the history of football, but according to teammate Jorge Valdano, it was by no means a spur-of-the-moment thing from Maradona.
“He had worked on it in training. It wasn’t the first time,” Valdano said in a new German book on Maradona's life, “D10S” (Verlag Die Werkstatt), as reported by The Athletic.
“When I took corners in training, he would get on the end of it and the ball would hit the net. Some would laugh and wonder: ‘What happened here?’ Others said: ‘Didn’t you see? He used his hand!’
“That’s why I wasn’t surprised when he scored that way against England. He meant it. I could sense some doubt in his goal celebration, and he hinted at it when we embraced. He said: ‘To the kick-off, quick.’ I had some doubts (about whether it would stand). I ran back very quickly.”
Despite a picture confirming Maradona had handled the ball, the Argentine did not publicly admit to using his hand to score until 2005, but his admission of guilt was soon misinterpreted as an apology - something Shilton quickly rejected.
However, Maradona clarified shortly after that he had not apologised for using his hand and had instead encouraged everyone to finally get over it.
"I never spoke of forgiveness," he said (via Clarin). "I said only that the story could not be changed, that I do not have to apologise to anyone, because it was a football game for which there were 100,000 people in the Azteca stadium, twenty-two players, two linesmen and one referee.
"Shilton speaks up now but he hadn't noticed, the defenders had to tell him. So the story is already written, nothing can change it. And that was what I said. I never apologised to anyone. Besides, I don't have to apologise by making a statement to England. For what? To please who?"