Maradona admits 'hand of God' goal was revenge for Falklands

Diego Maradona, the world's most famous sports cheat, has claimed that his notorious hand-ball goal against England in the 1986 World Cup was not, after all, a matter of divine intervention, but of simple revenge.

Diego Maradona, the world's most famous sports cheat, has claimed that his notorious hand-ball goal against England in the 1986 World Cup was not, after all, a matter of divine intervention, but of simple revenge.

The player has always described his goal, which he punched into the net, as scored by "the hand of God". But yesterday, in an extract from his forthcoming book, modestly entitled El Diego: The Autobiography of the World's Greatest Footballer, he said it was retribution against England for his country's defeat in the Falklands War.

He writes: "We blamed the English players for everything that happened, for all the suffering of the Argentine people ... Before the match we said football had nothing to do with the Malvinas war. But we knew a lot of Argentine kids died, shot down like little birds. This was revenge." England lost, and Argentina went on to win the trophy.

The English are not Maradona's only target: "I met the Pope. It was disappointing." He says the Pope gave him a rosary and told him it was special. But when he compared it to ones handed to his wife and mother, he found it was the same. Peeved, he went back to tackle the Supreme Pontiff about it but received only a pat on the back. Maradona writes: "Total lack of respect!"

Since then Maradona has become bloated and cocaine-addicted. In April he was taken into intensive care with heart problems, and his family then forced him to go into rehab for his addiction. After two months he said he wanted to go to Cuba, the setting for a picture published in a Mexican newspaper showing him lying on a bed snorting substances. His family tried to get a court to stop him, but Maradona went on television, pleaded for the right to return to Cuba, and broke down in tears on air. A judge cleared him for take-off, and two weeks ago 43-year-old arrived in Cuba for treatment at the Centre for Mental Health.

So the man who once had the body of an athlete and the feet of an angel now has the brain and heart of an addict. The hand of God moves in mysterious ways.

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