Fri, Feb 01, 2008 - Page 24 News List

Maradona apologizes for 'Hand of God' goal

AFP , LONDON

Argentina soccer legend Diego Maradona apologized in an interview yesterday for his infamous "Hand of God" goal in the 1986 World Cup quarter-finals that cost England a shot at the trophy.

Speaking to the Sun tabloid, Maradona, who scored both goals in the 2-1 victory over England more than 20 years ago, said that if he could go back in time and "change history," he would.

Maradona's first goal in the quarter-final match in Mexico was deemed by the match referee to be a legitimate header past England goalkeeper Peter Shilton, but replays confirmed he had illegally punched the ball in with his hand.

The controversy surrounding that incident has in England long overshadowed Maradona's superb second goal, which saw him dribble past five England players.

He told the Sun, speaking through a translator: "If I could apologize and go back and change history, I would. But the goal is still a goal. Argentina became world champions and I was the best player in the world. I cannot change history. All I can do now is move on."

England's anger at Maradona's handball was further inflamed when, immediately after the match, he said his opening goal was the work of the "hand of God" and the mood of English fans wasn't helped by the fact that Argentina went on to win the World Cup that year, defeating the then West Germany 3-2 in the final.

Maradona, who suffered from a well-chronicled drug problem, also took a swipe at fellow soccer legend Pele, saying that if he had never taken cocaine, "there would be no debate about who was the best footballer the world had ever seen ... Everyone would say me."

"If I had never touched cocaine, I would have been three times as good a player," he added.

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