The Hand of God and other World Cup drama

The Hand of God can have many different meanings.


The Hand of God – La Nacion

And although soccer is like a religion for some, it has nothing to do with divine intervention in this case. It is, rather, the name of a controversial goal scored by Argentina’s Diego Maradona against the English side in the quarter-finals of the 1986 World Cup at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. Footage shows Maradona touching the ball with his hand; however, the goal was allowed and Argentina went on to win the match 2-1 and eventually the tournament. The name was coined when, during a press conference, Diego Maradona said the goal was scored “un poco con la cabeza de Maradona y otro poco con la mano de Dios” (“a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God”)

This wasn’t the only controversy arising from bad calls made by referees during World Cup championships. Take the 1966 final game between England and West Germany, for example. The score was tied 2-2 at the end of regulation time so the game went to extra time. In the 98th minute English player Hurst’s shot hit the crossbar, bounced down and hit the ground either onto or just over goal line. Although the goal was allowed to stand, it is not certain whether the ball actually crossed the goal line or not. England claims it did. This goal, known as the “Ghost Goal”, went down in World Cup history.


Hurst’s shot – La Nacion

History has a strange knack of repeating itself: England faced Germany last weekend in the round of 16 in Bloemfontein, South Africa, and lost 4-1. This time the tables were turned on England: when they were 2 nil down, Lampard’s strike hit the bar, bounced over the line and spun out. Neither the linesman nor the referee saw it and the goal was disallowed although it was in by at least a mile. England never recovered after that.


Lampard’s denied goal – La Nacion

Later that day, during the match between Argentina and Mexico, Argentinean striker Carlos Tévez opened the score with an invalid goal: he was clearly offside. However, the referee validated it. The Mexicans were visibly upset, and with good reason too. Injustice is a bitter pill to swallow.

FIFA apologized to Mexico and England and dismissed the referees from both games. Too little, too late. There is a campaign in favor of introducing video technology to help referees make fair calls, but so far FIFA has fought against it tooth and nail. They may have to reconsider the issue. Let’s see what happens in Brazil 2014.

Read more:
Brazil: getting closer to the finals? Brazil vs Chile update
World cup ads in Brazil
What the world cup can do to your health

About the author

Ana Astri-O'Reilly
Ana Astri-O’Reilly is from Argentina, where she lived until five years ago. She currently lives in Dallas, USA with her British husband, but they move a lot. Previously a translator and English and Spanish teacher, Ana first started writing to share her experiences and adventures with friends and family. She speaks Spanish, English and a smattering of Portuguese.
Other 155 posts by

2 Comments

  • FIFA resist the introduction of technology saying it makes the game less ‘human’. The say that errors should be a part of the game and technology should not drive a wedge between the game as it is played on the street or a world-cup match. That’s also a relevant point of view: the amount of impassioned debate these rulings generate keep the interest in the game going. We are still talking about the ‘Hand of God’ and ‘Ghost Goal’ years later.

  • Sanjay, I think people’s interest in football will never never flag! but that’s a valid point. Actually, I’m of two minds here: I think technology will help make fairer calls but I like the idea of keeping the sport more “human”. I’m glad I’m not the one making the decisions here!