It was the best moment – or the worst moment – in football history, and now deep-pocketed sports fans can own a piece of it.
The shirt Diego Maradona wore when he scored the controversial ‘Hand of God’ goal against England at the 1986 World Cup is on sale for the first time. Auctioneer Sotheby’s said Wednesday that the jersey could fetch more than $5.2 million in an online auction that opens on April 20.
Brahm Wachter, head of streetwear and modern collectibles at Sotheby’s, said the shirt was “on a little list of the world’s most important sports memorabilia”.
“I’ll never be able to handle something that good again,” said Wachter. “The moment is iconic in the history of the sport.”
Maradona scored twice in the quarter-finals game in Mexico City on June 22, 1986, just four years after Britain and Argentina fought a war over the Falkland Islands. The Argentine’s first goal was ruled a header, but the ball had bounced off Maradona’s fist, out of sight of the referee.
Maradona later said that it was incised “a little with Maradona’s head and a little with the hand of God”.
Maradona’s second goal saw him dribble the ball past almost the entire England squad before beating goalkeeper Peter Shilton. In 2002 it was voted “Goal of the Century” in a FIFA poll.
Wachter said the two goals were “excellently balanced” and revealed two facets of Maradona’s character.
The first “was really smart and had a bit of a lucky moment,” he said. “But then he scored a second goal, which was one of the most incredible – almost angelic – goals of all time.”
Argentina won the game 2-1 and became world champions. Considered by many to be the greatest gamer of all time, Maradona struggled with cocaine abuse and other excesses and.
After the game, Maradona swapped shirts with England midfielder Steve Hodge, who had never sold it until now. It has been on loan to England’s National Football Museum in Manchester for the past 20 years.
In an interview with FIFA, Hodge recalled: “I thought I’m not going to be here again. I’ll try to get a jersey… I shook Maradona’s hand. He was bullied by his teammates. So I was like, ‘There’s no point, just leave it.'”
According to Sotheby’s, Hodge then had a second encounter with Maradona.
“After the interview, I went behind the gate to the dressing room,” Hodge said. “As I went down, Maradona was walking with two of his teammates. I looked him in the eye, tugged at my shirt as if to say, ‘Any chance of a swap?’ and he came right over, waved a prayer and we swapped shirts. And that was it. It was that easy.”
The blue shirt with light blue stripes was a one-off that was hastily put together because the tops the Argentina team wanted to wear were deemed too heavy for the Mexico City heat. Argentina Football Federation patches were sewn on and sparkling numbers, including Maradona’s 10, were ironed onto the back just before the game
Hodge said he was a “proud owner” of a shirt that “has a deep cultural meaning for the football world, for the people of Argentina and for the people of England”. According to Wachter, Hodge decided “that the time is right” to sell.
Sporting goods prices have risen sharply in recent years. The shirt could break a record for an athletic apparel held by a Babe Ruth New York Yankees jersey that sold for $5.64 million in 2019. A buyer paid $8.8 million for the manifesto that launched the modern Olympic movement, a record for a sporting goods item.
The shirt will be on display at Sotheby’s showroom in London during the sale period from April 20th to May 4th.