The story behind the jersey Diego Maradona wore 30 years ago for his “Hand of God” goal

Diego Maradona, 1960-2020.
Diego Maradona, 1960-2020.
Image: Jean-Yves Ruszniewski/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images
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Soccer kits today are highly regulated. Manufacturers for FIFA World Cup teams, for example, have to adhere to a 92-page style guide when designing uniforms.

But that wasn’t exactly the case when Argentina won its famed 2-1 victory over England in the quarterfinals of the 1986 World Cup, which took place 30 years ago today (June 22). That day, Argentine star Diego Maradona struck his infamous—and still much-discussed—”Hand of God” goal, as well as another virtuoso goal that a player on the opposing team called the best goal he ever saw.

Less well known is Maradona’s contribution to how his team looked on the pitch, and in the footage that soccer fans continue to watch three decades later.

The match between Argentina and England was more than a simple soccer game. Just four years earlier, the two nations had gone to war over the Falkland Islands, and Argentina lost. The match became a proxy for the resentment and anger Argentines felt toward the British, and vice versa.

The Argentines were scrambling at the last minute to select a jersey for the match, according to a recent article on FIFA‘s website. Argentina had beat Uruguay in the round of 16 wearing cotton jerseys, but coach Carlos Bilardo thought they might affect his players’ performance if worn on a scorching afternoon in Mexico City, where the England match was to take place. It was too late to have new jerseys made, so three days before the game, he sent a member of his coaching staff, Ruben Moschella, to search the city for a lighter-weight kit.

It came down to two different jerseys that they were unable to choose between, the story goes, until Maradona appeared and pointed at one. “That’s a nice jersey,” he said. “We’ll beat England in that.”

Moschella went back to the shop where he found it and bought enough to outfit the team. A designer created makeshift Argentinian Football Association patches to sew on, and the team ironed the players’ numbers onto the backs of the shirts.

Just hours later, Maradona stunned England with the “Hand of God” goal—believed by England to have gone in off Maradona’s hand—and his other goal, still considered by many to be one of the greatest goals ever scored in a World Cup.

After the game, as FIFA detailed in a separate post today, England’s Steve Hodge, who hadn’t seen the replay of the “Hand of God” goal, passed Maradona in the area by the locker rooms under the soccer pitch. He offhandedly asked Maradona if he would swap shirts, in keeping with the soccer tradition, and Maradona obliged.

Hodge brought the shirt back to England with him, where it has been displayed in England’s National Football Museum since 2002 on a long-term loan.

Not bad for a shirt ”hastily sourced from a backstreet shop in Mexico City.”

(h/t to @yellawkt for surfacing the first FIFA post.)