Steve Hodge was 23 years old and one of the young promises of England in the blackest afternoon to be an English footballer. On June 22, 1986, before more than 100,000 people packed under the Mexican summer sun at the Azteca Stadium, Diego Armando Maradona forged his legend: he scored a goal with his hand and then outwitted half the English players to score the goal. best goal in history. It was too early to know that Argentina would win the World Cup that year, that Maradona – who died in 2020 – would enter the permanent memory of his country and of football, and that the ghost of that afternoon would haunt the English players for the rest of their lives. . As is often done to remember that football is just a game, the English approached Diego after the defeat on the way to the locker room and asked him to exchange shirts. Maradona gave it to him. The following decade, Hodge wandered for seven local league teams until he retired in 1996. The hangman’s number ’10’ spent those years in the attic of his Nottingham home.
Hodge lent the jersey in 2003 to the National Football Museum in Manchester, where it remained until this week. In a subsequent interview, always consulted about the defeat against Argentina, the midfielder stated that he would never sell it. Until today. Since this Wednesday, the shirt is in the London offices of the Sotheby’s auction house, which has announced that it is putting it up for sale and that it will listen to offers between April 20 and May 4. “The shirt is in good condition, taking into account intense use, perspiration and athletic activity,” describes the luxury goods sales agency on its website. One of the icons of sports history, for which he expects to receive up to $7.8 million, “has slight fraying at the front hem and minor stains throughout,” according to the appraisal.
The shirt that Maradona wore that afternoon was born out of improvisation. Argentina had to play against England with alternative clothing by order of FIFA and the team only had one change available than the usual light blue and white. The problem for Carlos Bilardo, the Argentine coach who paid more attention to details than the devil, was that the blue team that had been brought to Mexico was too heavy to face an elimination game in the middle of summer. 72 hours before the match, Bilardo started the machinery running. Rubén Moschella, who then worked in the team’s props, told journalist Andrés Burgo years later for his book The match who toured all of Mexico City looking for shirts to satisfy the wishes of the strategist. Bilardo was not convinced by the finding, but Maradona thought they were “beautiful”. On June 21 at six in the afternoon, hours before the match, four Mexican seamstresses were in charge of sewing the Argentine shield and ironing the numbers on the new clothing. “How nice the shirts, if we become world champions they have to make a monument to all of us”, Jorge Burruchaga is heard saying, who scored the World Cup victory goal days later against Germany, in a film of the time.
Neither Hodge nor Sotheby’s have clarified the final destination of the auction money. In an interview with the BBC In February 2020, the former English soccer player remembered Maradona as the best player he faced in his career. “He was shorter than me, but he was a tank. His left foot was a magic wand,” Hodge said. “I think that [la camiseta] it is worth more in Argentina than here,” he said in another interview in the mid-1990s on English television, in which he showed it after asking his mother-in-law to send it by messenger. The “slight fraying” that Sotheby’s describes is more likely due to the hustle and bustle than the match. The fabric was so fragile that Argentina had changed shirts in the second half of that Mexican afternoon. The one that Hodge took, in any case, is the one that counts. Maradona scored both goals in the 1-2 draw against England in the second half.
Diego scored another two goals in a 2-0 semi-final victory against Belgium as his team beat West Germany 3-2 in the final. But it was the quarterfinal match that went down in history. Not only because Maradona signed his mischief in a goal marked “a little with his head and a little with the hand of God”, as he said after the game, nor because the second was named ‘the goal of the century’ by the vote of 340,000 people from 150 countries in a 2002 survey.
By 1986, Argentina celebrated three years since the return of democracy and four since the defeat in the Malvinas Islands war, which the dictatorship promoted as a puff of national pride in its last breath. The memory of those soldiers and conscripts sent to fight impromptu in the South Atlantic against British forces is still a wound in the country. In a 2019 documentary, Maradona himself claimed that the goal with his hand was “revenge” for the war. “It seemed that we were going to play another war. I knew it was my hand. It was not my plan, but the action happened so fast that the linesman did not see me put my hand, “said the player.
Five minutes into the second half on that afternoon in 1986, Maradona approached the area, eluding three English defenders. He played to the right with Jorge Valdano and ran to the penalty spot. After a rebound on a defender, Diego received the ball in the air and hit it with his fist. It was the first goal of the afternoon. After scoring, he ran to the side looking at the referee, to see if he had noticed. No, it was a goal. In the documentary he remembered it with a laugh: “The referee looked at me and said: goal.” Minutes later, the memorable run of the second goal would come, immortalized by the announcer Víctor Hugo Morales in his radio story: “Cosmic barillete, what planet did you come from to leave so many Englishmen on the road”.
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