Big Read: The 'Hand of God' - 30 years on

Some attitudes have softened towards Diego Maradona exactly 30 years after he crushed England's World Cup dreams in the heat of Mexico City, but not all.

When Kenny Sansom reflects on June 22 1986, he thinks about his late mum Rose inside the Azteca Stadium with 115,000 other people, watching Maradona score illegally with his Hand of God, and then his feet of angels.

'She hated Maradona. She is up somewhere else now but probably still wants to punch him,' says Sansom who had taken Rose as his plus-one to Mexico while the other players brought wives and girlfriends.

'My dad left when I was a kid so my mum was the one who made me a footballer. I nearly packed it in at 13 because the travelling back from training was so lonely. She was the one who came to meet me.

'Can you imagine if she'd seen me win the World Cup? And she might have done without Maradona. I think Gary Lineker has forgiven him but to me he's still a nasty little git. He cheated and got away with it. I wouldn't speak to him if I met him.

I'd rather not be in his company.'

Sansom's reaction is extreme but underlines the strong emotions that are still provoked by a World Cup quarter-final three decades ago.

Argentina's Diego Maradona scores with his Hand of God at the 1986 World Cup. Photo / Getty
Argentina's Diego Maradona scores with his Hand of God at the 1986 World Cup. Photo / Getty

English football was on its knees from hooliganism in 1986 and the World Cup was its life support. After disastrous results against Portugal and Morocco, Bobby Robson's team had started to bring back the feelgood factor when they faced Argentina in the last eight. The match was a huge international story because of the Falklands War fought between the two nations four years previously.

It certainly lived up to its billing in terms of incident. Between the 51st and 55th minutes, Maradona scoring two of the most famous goals ever scored. The first with what he described as a 'trick', using his outstretched arm to palm the ball past Peter Shilton, and the second an amazing solo goal from the halfway line which left a wake of England defenders behind him.

Watch: Maradona's 'Goal of the Century' (1986)


Despite a late reply from Lineker, Argentina won 2-1 and went on to lift the World Cup as England returned home.

Six of them have just had their first reunion since that time to watch the game together for a fascinating documentary Hand of God: 30 Years On that will be aired on ITV 4 at 10.15pm on Wednesday night. As Maradona wheels off in celebration following his sorcery, you won't see a more crestfallen bunch.

For Lineker, forgiveness might be easier because the last 30 years have been good to him. He played for Barcelona and Spurs, reached a World Cup semi-final in 1990 and had the charm and intelligence to become of Britain's foremost television presenters.

It's different for 57-year-old Sansom, beset in recent times by gambling and alcohol problems. Winning the World Cup was his one shot at football immortality, and Maradona ruined it.

'I've never experienced that amount of anger in the dressing-room after a match,' Sansom says as he discusses the painful anniversary.

'Players were there screaming for The FA to try and replay the match. When the Argentine kit man came in with shirts to give us, I thought Ray Wilkins was going to hit him.

'I'd never heard Ray swear before but he got this chap out the dressing-room shouting "We don't want your shirts, you're f***ing cheats".'

Argentina's Diego Maradona proudly holds aloft the World Cup trophy amongst masses of fans at the 1986 World Cup. Photo / Getty
Argentina's Diego Maradona proudly holds aloft the World Cup trophy amongst masses of fans at the 1986 World Cup. Photo / Getty

Could it have changed English football history? Sansom thinks so. 'Italia 90 and Euro 96 gets all the attention now but our team at the 1986 World Cup was just as good and we had a great chance of winning it.

'We definitely would have beaten Belgium in the semi-final and then it would have been West Germany in the final, just like 1966. For me, Lineker and Peter Beardsley were better than Alan Shearer and Teddy Sheringham.'

Despite the nature of the occasion, Sansom was thrilled to see Glenn Hoddle, Terry Butcher, Peter Shilton, Steve Hodge and Lineker again.

'Glenn even gave me a hug,' he quips. 'I was his room-mate with England, we were a good double act. He sang and I told jokes.

'We had a great team spirit. There were no laptops or mobile phones, of course, so we used to play cards. Bobby Robson said we'd play on the bench if he let us. Peter Reid and I became mates, we were both into Tommy Cooper.

'And of course the weather was hot. If we went out to sunbathe, the physio would follow us. He'd have a stopwatch and every five minutes shout, 'Turn over' so we wouldn't burn.'

Maradona's infamous first goal came when he anticipated a high back pass from Hodge and made up for the huge height disadvantage against Shilton by raising his arm to score.

'I certainly saw it. I turned away expecting to get a free-kick and then I saw the referee run towards the halfway line,' said Hoddle. Shilton chased the referee and others surrounded the Bulgarian linesman Bogdan Dotchev but to no avail. Lineker says in the programme he feels Dotchev did see what had happened.

Watch: English goalkeeper Peter Shilton talks about the moment Maradona scored in 1986

Four minutes later, it was effectively game over. Maradona swivelled in the centre circle, accelerated past Peter Beardsley, Reid, Terry Fenwick and Butcher and stuck the ball past Shilton with bewildering control. TV pundit David Pleat, shouted immediately: 'He's dethroned Pele'.

Like Sansom, Shilton and Butcher are still angry. Butcher wishes he'd connected with his last-gasp challenge on Maradona. 'It would have been the greatest own goal in World Cup history but deprived the cheating little so-and-so of scoring the best.

'I did the drugs test with Maradona. He pointed to his hand. Probably the best thing he ever did, because I would have killed him if he hadn't admitted it.'

Hodge's presence in the programme is awkward and the most interesting because of it. It's clear there is still disquiet amongst his team-mates that he swapped shirts with Maradona after full-time. Hodge insists he didn't know at the time Maradona had handled the ball, fortunate really as the shirt is now worth £300,000.

'No other England player swapped shirts with any Argentine on that day,' says Sansom emphatically. 'It's lucky we didn't know what he'd done in the dressing room afterwards otherwise a few might have tried to knock him out.'

Watch: Maradona tells Gary Lineker his story about the 'Hand of God'

Interestingly, Sansom also reveals Hodge cost England going 1-0 up before Maradona's act.

'We'd practised on a free-kick routine where I back-heeled the ball to Glenn and went on the overlap to cross for Gary Lineker.

'It worked to perfection - except Hodgy had got himself offside. Bobby Robson went mad with him at half-time and he just sat there and said: "Sorry lads, I forgot". There was nothing you could say to that! That was Hodge. If the boss asked us to wear blue tracksuits, he'd turn up in red.'

Sansom looks good in the flesh for someone with a historical booze problem. He assures his many well-wishers he is in a 'good place', though he controls his alcohol intake rather than abstains altogether.

He is engaged and set for an autumn wedding, and watches England's Euro 2016 matches with friends in the pub. He laughs at the irony of seeing the win against the Welsh in a pub called the Prince of Wales.

As England's most-capped left back until Ashley Cole, his views on the current side are interesting. 'I think they've got a lot of talent. I'd just like to see them communicate more to each other, it's important. We had Shilts who never shut up, Butch who never shut up. Even Lineker would shout if he wasn't getting the right service.'

Diego Maradona of Argentina kisses the trophy after the World Cup final against West Germany at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City. Photo / Getty
Diego Maradona of Argentina kisses the trophy after the World Cup final against West Germany at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City. Photo / Getty

Sadly, Sansom never got that World Cup winners' medal. After England's exit, Bobby Robson said: 'Without Maradona, Argentina couldn't have beaten us.'

For skill or subterfuge.

- Daily Mail

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf05 at 23 Oct 2016 20:03:57 Processing Time: 735ms