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The day Maradona went to Tunisia to meet the ref of the “Hand of God” game


© Dani Yako — Clarín newspaper

Diego Armando Maradona died on Wednesday 25 November at the age of 60. The former glory of Argentinean football died of a heart attack, according to the Argentinean press. KAWA pays tribute to El Pibe de Oro by taking you back to the famous "Hand of God" game in 1986 as well as a less famous anecdote: his visit to Tunisia in 2015 to meet Ali Bennaceur, the referee thanks to whom this gesture became iconic.

22 June 1986. Azteca Stadium in Mexico City (Mexico). Diego Maradona‘s Argentina faces Gary Lineker‘s England in the quarter-finals of the World Cup in front of 115,000 spectators in a frenzy of excitement. The match saw neither side do well… At least until the 51st minute.

One mistake, one victory, one World Cup

El Pibe de Oro recovers the ball in the middle of the field and clears four English players before trying a one-two at the entrance of the penalty area with his team-mate Jorge Valdano. The latter didn’t control the ball well and it landed on defender Steve Hodge. Wanting to clear it on the volley, the Englishman unfortunately sends the ball back to his penalty spot where his goalkeeper Peter Shilton attempts an aerial clearance to recover it. Maradona, who had been following the action, jumps in to meet the English giant, and being small in stature, chooses to extend his arm to be first on the ball. With his hand, the Argentinian number 10 manages to lob the English keeper and scores for the Albiceleste.

The Tunisian referee of the match, Ali Bennaceur, not having seen the hand foul, validates the goal for Argentina despite the protests of the English players. The rest is well known: Argentina won the game 2-1, following a second goal of anthology by Maradona (54′) and despite a late response by Gary Lineker (81′) and will even win the tournament a week later against Germany (3-2).

Maradona in Tunisia for the tribute

What Maradonna will call, in a post-match press conference, “the hand of God” becomes one of the most memorable gestures in the history of the World Cup. The Tunisian referee Ali Bennaceur finds himself at the origin of one of the most striking facts in the history of football and the one that will make him famous. His mistake will be cited as an example to justify the use of video assistance in refereeing by FIFA thirty years later.

© Diego Maradona

Diego Maradona with former ref Ali Bennaceur in 2015 © Diego Maradona

The man in black will find, much later, the road of the man in the celestial jersey, but far from the fields this time. In August 2015, within the framework of a publicity shoot for the Coca-Cola brand in Tunisia, El Pibe de Oro will come to greet the Tunisian, now retired, at home. The meeting was immortalised by the brand for the advertisement and was an occasion for the former referee to get under the spotlights again nearly three decades after the events.