Ali Bin Nasser says he wouldn’t have given ‘Hand of God’ ball to Maradona
The ball from the 1986 FIFA World Cup quarter-final match between Argentina and England is auctioned off by the Tunisian referee who claimed it at the notorious end of the game. He insisted he wouldn’t have given it to match winner Diego Maradona if the player asked for it after the match.
The iconic Adidas Azteca ball was used throughout Argentina’s 2-1 win in Mexico City. Every goal scored in the game has gone down in legend as a defining moment in World Cup history. The first was awarded despite Maradona kicking the ball past England keeper Peter Shilton, the so-called ‘hand of God’. Maradona’s second was a fascinating dribble past five opposing players, commonly referred to as ‘the goal of the century’. Even England’s consolation goal scored by Gary Lineker was ultimately decisive as it earned him the coveted Golden Boot as the tournament’s top scorer ahead of Maradona, who went on to captain Argentina to win the final.
The referee who failed to spot Maradona’s game-changing handball, Ali Bin Nasser (also known as Ali Bennaceur), has been elected to officiate the match by the world governing body of FIFA. Just four years after the Falklands War, the choice of an English-speaking, European or South American arbitrator risked sparking accusations of bias.
After officiating in back-to-back unprecedented Africa Cup of Nations finals as well as the politically sensitive 1985 Under-20 World Cup quarter-final between the Soviet Union and China, the Franco- Arab Bin Nasser thinks FIFA saw him as a safe choice for such a volatile game. Speaking to me from his home in Tunis, Bin Nasser said: “I was an honest referee and did my best.
Bin Nasser dismisses the fact that not being able to speak English or Spanish hindered his ability to communicate with the English and Argentinian players during this match. “In football, the only language we have to speak is that of the whistle, the flags of my colleagues and red and yellow cards. I don’t speak English, but the two words I know are ‘advantage’ and ‘play’. Those were the only two words you would hear me say during the game. , and everything game whose language I don’t speak.”
When Maradona kicked the ball in for the disputed first goal, Bin Nasser insists he handed over the responsibility of making the decision to his linesman, Bulgarian Bogdan Dotchev, who was in line with the play. explained: “The instruction from FIFA before the tournament was that if you couldn’t see an incident clearly, you should take your colleague’s advice if he was in a better position. I didn’t see the goal but I I was going back to center back and I was looking at my colleague the whole time. When he met me at the halfway line, then that was a goal. He had a better view than me at that time.
Dotchev, who died in 2017, has a totally different take on the incident. Speaking to Bulgarian media in 2013, he admitted that “the ghost of that game will probably haunt me to the grave… The refereeing was different back then, the rules were different. The linesmen didn’t have the powers they have now to disallow goals, call fouls for cards etc. I had no right to influence the leader All the power on the pitch was concentrated in the hands of the head referee. Bin Nasser only knew his native French. I speak German and Spanish. As soon as he signals that everything is fine, what can I do? It was only when he started to walk back in the center that I started too.
Dochev and the two other officials working on the game, Berny Ulloa of Costa Rica and Idrissa Traore of Mali, all signed the ball which was kept by Bin Nasser in his Tunisian home for more than three decades. When the jersey worn by Maradona during the second half of the match was auctioned in May by Sotheby’s for a then-world record price of $8.96 million, 78-year-old Bin Nasser began contacting the houses of auction on the possibility of selling the touched ball. by the genius of Maradona.
England-based auctioneers Graham Budd Auctions Ltd. have made the ball the flagship exhibit among more than 300 pieces of World Cup memorabilia currently available for sale through online auction. Their estimate on the ball, which has deflated over time and cannot be reinflated for fear of damaging the inner liner, is between $2.8 and $3.4 million.
As the winner of such a prestigious match, Maradona would have been entitled to ask for the ball in remembrance of his performance, but Bin Nasser is adamant he would not have given it to the player revered worldwide as one of the greatest athletes to honor any sport.
Bin Nasser told me: “FIFA gave very strict instructions to the referees regarding the match ball, the referee must keep the ball. After the match, I asked my colleagues to sign it for me so that I could keep it as a souvenir of the game It was the pinnacle of my career I kept it for 36 years and four months so to answer your question I wouldn’t have given it to him because FIFA m asked to keep the ball.
In August 2015, Maradona visited Bin Nasser at his home in Tunisia and revealed in his 2017 book, Touched by God: how we won the 86 World Cup in Mexicothat he asked the referee to sign a photo of him holding the ball as the two captains shook hands before the game, a photo which Maradona kept in his personal gym.
Bin Nasser revealed to me that he never had the opportunity to reunite Maradona with the ball with which he created sports history, “it was in another room”, but it was full of admiration for the man. “He gave me an Argentine shirt and signed it ‘To Ali, my eternal friend’. You see this genius on the pitch but he’s a totally different human being off the pitch. He’s very humble. C was a warm person who loves the poor and loves his country.”
The “Hand of God” ball is currently up for auction until November 16.