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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

My favourite World Cup moment: Maradona makes his mark at Mexico 86

One of his goals against England is remembered for the wrong reasons, but the other was sublime

Diego Maradona punches the ball past Peter Shilton of England to score the opening goal of the World Cup Quarter Final at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City in 1986. Photo: Bongarts
Diego Maradona punches the ball past Peter Shilton of England to score the opening goal of the World Cup Quarter Final at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City in 1986. Photo: Bongarts

Mexico 86 conjures up an exotic vision of exactly what the World Cup represents for me, historic rivalries and individual brilliance.

As a ten-year-old falling in love with the beautiful game, Argentina and England was a special match that lit a fire inside.

Blissfully unaware of its political significance, just four years after the Falkland Islands conflict between the two countries, football was all that mattered.

I knew little about Diego Armando Maradona, just playground talk of this brilliant Argentinian cutting a swathe through Italian football who was one day going to be better than Pele.

On a late Sunday summer afternoon, and watching with one of my best friends in the basement of his house, it was a game that’s lived long in the memory.

The sweatbands worn by England’s players reflected the stifling heat of Mexico City, the constant whistles and horns of the Estadio Azteca creating a cacophony of sound, that beautiful Argentinian kit and Gary Lineker gunning for the Golden Boot.

On 51 minutes, with the game poised, the ball lobbed up from defender Steve Hodge and Maradona punched the ball past Peter Shilton to give Argentina a 1-0 lead.

That feeling of injustice and being wronged, staring silently at the screen in disbelief, trying to figure out exactly what just happened has never left me.

Four minutes later, the squat Argentinian picked up possession again, just inside his own half in the shadow of the stadium’s famous overhead spider camera. The game went into slow motion.

Maradona slalomed inside one lunge from Everton’s Peter Reid, then spun away from a second challenge from Terry Fenwick of QPR.

There was no way he would get past Hodge - even if he did, the mighty Terry Butcher was sure to get him.

As little Diego’s run cut into the box he prepared to shoot, collapsing under a mass of English bodies desperate to halt his marauding run – and the ball was neatly tucked past the helpless Shilton.

2-0, and all seemed lost. But what a goal.

Questions remained - why didn’t Reid take him out on half way, I’m sure Butcher got the final touch? When is John Barnes coming on?

Lineker pulled one back taking his tournament tally to 6, but all that was left to do after hopelessly seeing out a 2-1 loss, was try and recreate Maradona’s moment of wonder.

Dribbling my gold coloured Mexico ’86 football through the streets and down to the park for a kickabout, taking on lampposts and chipping over hedges – imagining myself as Diego, marauding past the English.

Nick Webster is a senior news reporter at The National

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