(Reuters) – Time has healed the wounds that Diego Maradona inflicted on England at the 1986 World Cup and he should be remembered for his achievements in football rather than for scoring its most infamous goal, former England midfielder Trevor Steven has said.
Maradona died after suffering a heart attack at his home in the suburbs of Buenos Aires on Wednesday, less than a month after his 60th birthday.
Thirty-four years ago, Argentina knocked England out of the World Cup quarter-finals in Mexico with Maradona scoring two goals in the space of four minutes.
His first was immortalised in football folklore as the ‘Hand of God’ goal after the diminutive Argentine leapt in front of onrushing England goalkeeper Peter Shilton to touch the ball into the empty net with his fist.
The second was the product of a mazy run past half the England team to score what was later known as the ‘Goal of the Century’.
“He scored the most infamous goal in world football history and also the most iconic and fantastic goal considering the situation,” Steven, who was on the pitch that day at the Azteca Stadium, told Reuters.
“The quarter-final of a World Cup played at 9,000 feet above sea level and in temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit… playing in those conditions was a challenge in itself but when you look at the level he took the game to it was almost unbelievable.”
England were incensed at the manner of Maradona’s first goal and Shilton has said that he would never forgive Maradona.
‘CHEATED AND GOT AWAY’
Steven said that his team mates were justifiably angry.
“He cheated and got away with it. He never looked to own up to what he had done,” former Everton, Burnley and Rangers midfielder Steven said. “It set us on the road to elimination from the World Cup. We felt we had been robbed of a potential opportunity.”
“I certainly feel I admired him but I didn’t know whether to like him or loathe him as an individual because of the effect his action had on England but also on that group of players and on myself personally.”
Time, however, has softened the blow for the 57-year-old.
“As time goes by, the feelings get diluted somewhat and the wounds healed,” Steven said. “You could take Maradona for what he was – a genius footballer, a flawed genius with his lifestyle, but with his footballing ability he was out there on his own.
“Of all the great players around the world, no one could do what he could do. That (the Hand of God) was a split second but he had 15 years of professional football where he… won the highest honours.
“So we need to remember him for those achievements rather than being very parochial or personal about that day way back in June 1986.”
(Reporting by Rohith Nair and Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)