‘He never apologised’: Peter Shilton refuses to forgive Diego Maradona for ‘Hand of God’ goal after his death

Former England captain accuses Argentina great of having ‘no sportsmanship’ and reveals they never spoke again in the 34 years since the famous 1986 World Cup quarter-final

Jack de Menezes
Sports News Correspondent
Thursday 26 November 2020 08:51 GMT
Diego Maradona has passed away aged 60
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Former England goalkeeper Peter Shilton has hit out at Diego Maradona for “never apologising” for his 1986 ‘Hand of God’ goal, fewer than 24 hours since his death.

The Argentine football great suffered cardiac arrest on Wednesday at his home in Tigres, north of Buenos Aires, with the news triggering an outpouring of emotion and tributes from players past and present as well as fans of the game.

The news triggered memories of Maradona’s incredible career, not least the triumphant 1986 World Cup campaign that saw the inspiring forward lead his nation to glory in Mexico. Along the way, Argentina knocked England out of the quarter-finals in a famous 2-1 victory that featured two moments that came to define Maradona - the first being his ‘Hand of God’ goal in which he used his hand to punch the ball over the head of Shilton, and the second his mesmerising run from halfway to beat five England players before finishing past the goalkeeper using only his left foot.

However, despite the tributes flooding in for Maradona, Shilton was unable to let the opening goal go as it still irks him 34 years later.

READ MORE: Time for English football to let Maradona’s dark arts go

“My life has long been linked with that of Diego Maradona — and not in the way I would have liked,” Shilton wrote in the Daily Mail.

“But I am saddened to hear of his passing at such a young age. He was undoubtedly the greatest player I ever faced and my thoughts are with his family.”

Recalling the 1986 quarter-final, Shilton said: "None of us expected what happened next. How could we? He challenged me for a high, looping ball, but knew he wouldn't get it with his head, so he punched it into the net. A clear offence. Cheating.

“As he ran away to celebrate he even looked back twice, as if waiting for the referee's whistle. He knew what he had done. Everybody did — apart from the referee and two linesmen.”

Although Maradona would come to be known for blatantly cheating and getting away with it, he was also fondly remembered for what he did four minutes later by scoring the ‘Goal of the Century’ to put Argentina 2-0 ahead. Gary Lineker managed to pull a goal back for England in the final 10 minutes but their World Cup exit was confirmed soon after, and the captain on the day Shilton believes that without the first goal, Maradona would never have scored the second.

Maradona scores the ‘Hand of God’ goal in 1986
Maradona scores the ‘Hand of God’ goal in 1986 (Getty)

“I don't care what anybody says, it won the game for Argentina,” he added. “He scored a brilliant second almost immediately, but we were still reeling from what had happened minutes earlier.

“For the first time in the game, we let him get a run on us and he scored. It was a great goal but we were in no doubt — without the first goal he would not have scored the second.”

Shilton never spoke to Maradona again after that in the 42 years that followed until his death on Wednesday, despite several attempts to have them appear on television together. England’s most-capped player in history said that he would only appear with the Argentine if he gave an indication that he would apologise, but it never arrived.

“What I don't like is that he never apologised,” said Shilton. “Never at any stage did he say he had cheated and that he would like to say sorry. Instead, he used his 'Hand of God' line.

“That wasn't right. It seems he had greatness in him but sadly no sportsmanship.”

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