The football shirt worn by the late Diego Maradona during his infamous “Hand of God” moment in the 1986 World Cup is being put up for auction.
On June 22, 1986, a 25-year-old Maradona made sporting history in a quarter-final match between Argentina and England. Maradona was responsible for scoring two extraordinary goals — which set Argentina on their way to winning the tournament.
The first goal was quickly dubbed the “Hand of God”, as it involved Maradona nudging the ball with his hand, something the referees did not see. After the game, the Argentinian football player was quoted as saying the goal was made “a little with the head of Maradona, and a little with the hand of God”.
His second goal, dubbed the “Goal of the Century”, involved him dribbling past a host of English players, dancing around them and then driving the ball up-field, before scoring against English goalkeeper Peter Shilton.
After the game, English midfielder Steve Hodge asked Maradona to swap shirts. That same shirt will now be offered on the market for the first time, in a dedicated online Sotheby's sale that opens on April 20. For the duration of the auction, the shirt will be placed on public view in Sotheby’s New Bond Street gallery in London.
“I have been the proud owner of this item for over 35 years, since Diego and I swapped shirts in the tunnel after the famed match,” says Hodge. “It was an absolute privilege to have played against one of the greatest and most magnificent football players of all time.
“It has also been a pleasure to share it with the public over the last 20 years at the National Football Museum, where it has been on display. The Hand of God shirt has deep cultural meaning to the football world, the people of Argentina, and the people of England, and I’m certain that the new owner will have immense pride in owning the world’s most iconic football shirt.”
The shirt has its own interesting backstory. After beating Uruguay in an earlier round, Argentina coach Carlos Bilardo was worried that the team’s usual cotton jerseys might be too uncomfortable in the scorching Mexico City heat and went looking for a last-minute replacement. Maradona helped pick out the new option, reportedly saying: “That one. We’ll beat England in that one.”
Just before the match with England began, makeshift Argentinian Football Association patches were sewn on to the new shirts, and the numbers were ironed on to the back.
“When we went out on to the field, some of the guys had sparkles on their face because the numbers were silver and sparkly ... And after genius kit man Tito Benros had ironed those numbers on to 38 jerseys, he looked like he should have been at a carnival, not at Azteca Stadium!” Maradona recalled.
The shirt is expected to fetch more than $5.2 million in the auction. The current record for any game-worn shirt is held by Babe Ruth’s Yankees road jersey, which fetched $5.64 million in an 2019 auction.
“The Hand of God is truly a singular moment not only in the history of sports, but in the history of the 20th century,” says Brahm Wachter, Sotheby’s head of streetwear and modern collectables. “The moment resonated far beyond the world of football, coming soon after the Falklands conflict, and has in turn inspired books, films, and documentaries.
“Maradona is now remembered as one of the greatest to ever play the game of football – and this particular game is an instrumental part of his legacy. Of course, not only was 'The Hand of God' goal scored in this game, but also, the 'Goal of the Century', which is widely considered to be one of the greatest individual goals of all time. It is the first time the shirt has ever been brought to market, and Sotheby’s is honoured to be a part of the item’s history now.”