Diego McMaradona

Chris Burton reflects on the welcome afforded to the Hand of God in Scotland

Last updated: 17th November 2008  

Diego McMaradona

Maradona: Marmite man

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It was perhaps fitting that Diego Armando Maradona's arrival on Scottish shores this week occurred on a Sunday.

The man who revels under the 'Hand of God' moniker enjoys a social standing second only to the big man upstairs back in football-mad Argentina.

The greatest player of his, or anybody else's, generation, Maradona is, in sporting terms, about as close to a Messiah as you are likely to get.

Yes, he may have had a tendency to go off the rails in spectacular fashion throughout an illustrious career, with drug problems following him around like a bad smell.

And yes, having never been one to shy away from controversy, he has even managed to maintain a considerable public profile since hanging up his boots 11 years ago.

Fluctuating weight problems, the omnipresent drug suspicions and a questionable friendship with Cuba's revolutionary president Fidel Castro have all helped to ensure that Maradona remains as much a part of football's fibre today as he was during his playing days.

But, there is no denying that the man is a living, breathing legend - the kind of which we are unlikely to see again.

However, I may be allowing my own personal opinions of a man I deem to be the greatest sportsman to ever grace this planet to cloud my judgment here.

Captivated

I appreciate that Maradona is not to everyone's taste and, to paraphrase the slogan of a well-known yeast-based product, he is your stereotypical 'Marmite man' - you either love him or you hate him.

Having led his homeland, almost single-handedly, to World Cup glory in 1986, his place in the hearts of Argentines across the globe is sealed indefinitely.

That comes as no surprise, though, and it is only when you begin looking at Maradona's popularity away from South America that you start to gain a greater understanding of how one man can cause such a massive fluctuation in opinion.

His exploits with a ball at his feet captivated the world, and the pop star-esque welcome which greeted him at Glasgow would, unquestionably, be repeated were he to roll into town anywhere from Timbuktu to Texas.

He occupies a select group of individuals who enjoy almost universal acclaim - standing alongside such sporting greats as Pele and Muhammad Ali.

However, if there is one country that has embraced El Diego more than any other, then it would appear to be Scotland.

The Scots and the Argentines you see have something in common - an all-encompassing dislike for all things English.

Therefore, anyone who makes said nation look like a bunch of mugs is instantly hailed as a national hero - regardless of nationality, past misdemeanours etc.

With that in mind, it comes as no surprise to find that Maradona's infamous goal which helped dump England out of the World Cup 22 years ago features prominently in many Scotsman's, and Argentine's, all-time greatest sporting moments.

Smirking

The sight of the Diego's dumpy frame rising above Peter Shilton's outstretched fist to glance the ball home with his fingertips equates to the stuff of dreams for Tartan-clad men everywhere.

There is even a bar in Ayr dedicated to that one moment in history, with the 'Hand of God' dominated by a wall-length mural of the goal and staff kitted out in Argentina replica shirts as they tend to smirking customers.

The fact that Maradona actually scored his first international goal against them at Hampden Park in 1979 has long been forgotten, with his actions seven years on ensuring that he will not go thirsty should he decide to frequent a Glasgow watering hole during his current jaunt to Britain.

How many other men can claim to enjoy such acclaim so far from home? England certainly do not have a comparable figurehead, while no-one springs to mind in regards to Wales or Ireland.

Maradona has always been one of a kind, an individual who stands alone in a world dominated by meaningless 'celebrity'.

His place in the starry eyes of Scots would only seem to confirm this, with a nation proving to be equally as welcoming to a Latin superstar who speaks little English as they were to their returning Olympic heroes this summer.

It remains to be seen how forgiving those inside Hampden on Wednesday will be should Maradona's first game in charge of his beloved country end with the Albicelestes running rings around George Burley's men.

But, with that said, should the game go the way of the visitors then it will be the home coach who will be looking to shelter from the torrent of terrace bile.

Whatever happens in midweek, though, I am of the opinion that the world is a better place for having welcomed Maradona back into football, and those who take the time to catch the game on Sky Sports 1 are likely to be in for a treat.

Comments (10)

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David Matthews (Sheffield Wednesday fan) says...

I am absolutely flabbergasted at all the people on this forum who think that Maradona is the best player of all time. I can only conclude that they are all under 45 years old and were just not around or too young to watch games from 1958 to 1970. Maradona is the second best player - without a doubt - and Johan Cryuff the third but if I had a choice Pele would be my first name on the teamsheet. As for Zidane being in this company? Are you having a laugh?

Posted 10:33 19th November 2008

Omor Ehi (Manchester United fan) says...

I still a am at loss why the English press have refused to let this issue of hand of God fade away. They have cntiniously done this to find solace and refused to comment on the second goal which was pure genius. Maradona took on the entire english defence line and that Goal is adjuged to be the best goal ever scored in a world cup. The presshave simply refused to accept this fact. Maradona is in Scotland and the ever critical English press are at it again. And Terry Butcher rather accept the fact that in 1986 he had the priveledge of being on the pitch with a legend has come out to say he would not shake hands. Does he expect Maradona to appologise for using his hand? Which footabller on the face of the earth has ever come out to appologise for some act on the field of play. Lets face it. Maradona is pure class and all i can wish him is that he brings success to the Argentine squad.

Posted 18:35 18th November 2008

Nick Royce (Chelsea fan) says...

People seem to forget that Maradona's second goal against us was voted the greatest world cup goal of all time. He was and still is a genius. He stand's along side Pele and Ali no problem, where England's modern day equvilent is Beckham or Gazza, what a joke! In a world that is based purely on image and cheap fame, Maradona is a living legend and a god of football, Zidane also was, Chris Clark, u obviously only watch Liverpool, as Zidane has done many great things, and at 34 dragged his team to the world cup final, beat that Stevie (boring) G.

Posted 13:40 18th November 2008

Shane Mulcahy (Celtic fan) says...

I find it quite pathetic the English always have to mention the hand of god when Maradona's name is mentioned. How come they never mention the second goal in that game, which was the greatest of all time scored by the greatest of all time. Maradona once had a great point to argue against the hand of god. He said if he took a shot in that game and the ball went one foot over the line and Shilton pulled it back out without the referree seeing it, would Shilton have gone to the referee and told him that it was a goal????? Maradona is the only player in history to carry both club and country single-handedly to success, a feat no other player has, or will ever do

Posted 13:12 18th November 2008

Shuja Ahmad (Manchester United fan) says...

People, hate him for his antics off the field but you know nothing of football if you don't rate him as the greatest footballer the world has ever seen. If you asked the typical football fan who knows a bit about football history to name a few of the Brazil world cup winning team from the 70's they would probably be able to name 5 or 6 great players on top of Pele at least. Then ask them to name 2 or 3 great players from the Argentina team that won the world cup & off the top of their heads they probably know only 1 - Maradona! The only time a player has one a world cup (or any other cup) single handedly. And lets not mention what he did when he went to Napoli after breaking his leg at Barcelona! Again, single handedly winning 2 league title & UEFA cup - with Napoli! As for not being a team player - you should get the views of the strikers that played with him. He would be greedy & take on whole teams by himself but the amount of times he laid off tap-ins for the strikers was uncountable. True he was a junkie & it's not something to overlook, but truth is he was far more talented than Pele. Pele is more of an ambassador of football. He didn't even play in europe. Pele was a goal machine, maradona had everything you need to be a great footballer. Simply the best.

Posted 12:53 18th November 2008

John Smith (Tottenham Hotspur fan) says...

The man is a genius no doubt.. However, for me, the greatest footballer to ever grace the earth is Zinedine Zidane... No question... A true artist...

Posted 10:33 18th November 2008

Denis Mchugh (Tamworth fan) says...

Miguel, I do completely understand the english hatred of Maradona. You see, the English are the world champions of moaning bitterness, always have been always will be. I personally think it's great that hand of god goal is celebrated the way it is, what better way to stick it to them.

Posted 09:54 18th November 2008

Marc Sargeant (West Ham United fan) says...

Maradona was the greatest player ever, including Pele, and I do not believe that any amount of drugs would ever make someone capable of doing the things he did with a ball at his feet (or hand!). The 1970 Brazil team is regularly listed as the greatest team ever, and would have won the World Cup even without Pele. I am sure the same could not be said about the 1986 Argentine team without Maradona. There is also what he did at Napoli to be considered. He took an unfashionable team to 2 league titles and the UEFA Cup at a time when the Italian league was the strongest in the world. A feat not far from in equivalence from something positive actually happening at West Ham!! Good luck to the Scots for celebrating what he did to England (and I still 'enjoy' the 2nd goal myself), they have to have something good to cling to! As for the 'Hand of God', if Peter Shilton could actually jump (see also the German goal in the 1990 semi final) it would never have been an issue anyway!!

Posted 06:56 18th November 2008

Ross Panfili (Newcastle United fan) says...

Being from Wales, i always have a big smirk on my face when i see the picture of him handling the ball into the net against England The scots are gonna give him a big round of a applause come wednesday

Posted 20:29 17th November 2008

David Brent (Arsenal fan) says...

England won World cup by cheating as well with a goal that never passed the line. Whatever happened Argentina deserved to win the world cup and they will win more cups and the world agree on that. maradona is the best football player ever and Argentina keep producing players of this calibre.. messi, aguiro, requelme . what i believe England needs to call some Argentinian old players to teach Englsih kids how to play football by their feets, because football is a technique is not just throwing the ball and run (that's rugby)

Posted 18:07 17th November 2008

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