BY SAM SMITH
Roy Hodgson has urged England fans to look beyond remembering Diego Maradona for his ‘Hand of God’ goal against the Three Lions.
The Argentine infamously punched the ball into the net against England at the 1986 World Cup. The goal, which he later dubbed the ‘Hand of God’, helped Argentina knock England out of the tournament.
Maradona, who died on Wednesday aged 60, went on to score one of the greatest goals in World Cup history – dribbling beyond several England players, around goalkeeper Peter Shilton before sliding the ball home.
The Napoli legend is largely remembered as one of the greatest players of all time. However, many England fans have never forgiven him for the handball goal.
“The number of players who, in a football career, have scored an important goal by touching the ball with [an illegal] part of their body, or by cheating in some other way – maybe by diving to win a penalty that wins a game,” pointed out Palace boss Hodgson, who is also a former England manager.
“To suggest that’s all we should remembering, I think that’s unbelievably parochial. We should be bigger than that. Tributes are being paid to this man all around the world. In Argentina, they’re having a three-day stage of national mourning.
“I don’t think there will be anywhere other than in England where the so-called ‘Hand of God’ incident will be mentioned. It would probably not have been mentioned much anyway had he not chosen to describe it as a ‘Hand of God’, which was obviously a major mistake at the time to describe it in that way.
“He should probably, perhaps, have said, ‘yes, the ball was there and I couldn’t head it, so I put my hand on the ball and luckily the referee didn’t see it.’ That’s basically what it was.”
Hodgson’s only personal memory of Maradona is taking his Malmo FF team – who were then Swedish champions in 1987 – to play an exhibition match against a team including the former Barcelona midfielder and his brothers.
The match is a part of Grenada folklore and is dubbed ‘The Day of the Three Maradonas’.
The 73-year-old also recalls being told stories about Maradona by his former Inter Milan goalkeeper coach.
Hodgson continued: “The only memory I have of him from close up is when Malmo FF, during an international break, were asked to take a team to Grenada – a second division team at the time in Spain – to play this match. We weren’t given real details about why Malmö FF should be invited to Grenada to play a friendly exhibition match but when we got there we found out the reason was Diego Maradona was going to play in the game.
“There’s no doubt that everything that’s being said about him, especially by people who played with him or have known him very closely, paint the picture that most of us have of him anyway. I’ve probably got the biggest picture of him and the real respect, if you like, from the documentaries – the film about his time in Mexico and the film about his life.
“I remember my goalkeeper coach at Inter, Luciano Castellini, he was a lovely goalkeeper during the time when Diego Maradona played and he had some fantastic stories about him. They were all positive, and you would really not hear one negative word about him as a person or a player.
“As a player there is no doubt that he was so gifted and we won’t see his like again. I can only say that I was privileged to have the chance to watch him play but mostly it was from afar.”
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