World Cup memories: Maradona's Goal of the Millennium, 1986
In an ongoing series, CBCSports.ca asked players, managers, broadcasters, journalists and fans to recall their favourite World Cup memories.
Next up: Mark Gleeson.
Gleeson is a veteran reporter who is considered the world's leading expert on African soccer.
A resident of Cape Town, Gleeson has written articles for a number of media agencies during his career as a journalist. He's also covered the World Cup in person, including the 1986 tournament that provided him with his favourite tournament memory — Maradona's Goal of the Millennium for Argentina in the quarter-finals.
Gleeson watched the amazing goal happen before his eyes as he sat perched in the press box of Mexico City's venerable Azteca Stadium.
"I went to Mexico in 1986 and watched Maradona dribble through the English team. [That] goal against England was just absolutely marvelous. And then they gave us free pizza and Camel cigarettes in the press box afterwards to celebrate," Gleeson told CBCSports.ca.
The Argentina-England game was played under a cloud of socio-political tension, the Argentine press egging on the national team to exact revenge on the English and reclaim honour after losing the 1982 Falklands War. A goalless and uneventful opening 45 minutes gave way to an incident-filled second half where Maradona delighted spectators with his devilish genius and produced two of the most talked about goals in World Cup lore.
The first came six minutes after the restart when the stout Argentine burst through the brittle English defence with a quick turn of pace before losing the ball. England midfielder Steve Hodge couldn't clear it and hooked the ball over his head towards his own goal after taking a feeble swipe.
As the ball hung majestically in the air, England goalkeeper Peter Shilton and Maradona raced for it, but the Argentine trickster slyly punched the ball as both players went up for it, expertly camouflaging his offence and duping the linesman and referee by nodding his head as if he made contact with it.
The ball rolled across the goal-line as Maradona celebrated while England protested to no avail. At the post-match press conference, a brazen Maradona claimed the goal was scored "a little bit by the Hand of God, another bit by the head of Maradona." TV networks around the world showed the incident time and time again that evening, as Maradona's "Hand of God" goal became enshrined in the sporting lexicon.
Just minutes after punching the ball into the net, Maradona scored legitimately against England with what many consider not only the greatest goal ever at the World Cup, but also the greatest in the history of the game.
The Argentine master collected the ball 10 yards inside his half and slowly dribbled into English territory. As he picked up speed, he began to breeze by one England player after another, his remarkable dribbling skills and vision carrying him forward. After effortlessly slaloming his way through half the England team, he burst into the penalty area and ended his 75-yard run to glory by coolly slotting the ball past an onrushing Shilton into the back of the net.
In a span of four minutes the world had seen the worst and best of Argentina's sporting god. While the "Hand of God" goal was the very definition of deceitful, Maradona's second goal, later dubbed "The Goal of the Millennium," was pure poetry, affirmation of his genius and standing as the greatest player in the world.