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Referee to cash in on Maradona ‘Hand of God’ World Cup ball


AP Sports Writer

A former World Cup referee is about to cash in on his biggest mistake — to the tune of about $3 million.

The ball used when Diego Maradona scored his notorious “Hand of God” goal against England at the 1986 World Cup has been put up for auction by the Tunisian ref who was in charge of the game and missed soccer’s most famous handball.

Graham Budd Auctions said Thursday they expect the 36-year-old Adidas ball owned by ex-referee Ali Bin Nasser to fetch between $2.7 million and $3.3 million when it goes up for sale in Britain on Nov. 16, four days before the World Cup in Qatar kicks off.

The ball auction comes amid a boom for sports memorabilia.

The shirt worn by Argentina great Maradona in that game against England at the World Cup in Mexico was sold in May for $9.3 million, at the time the highest price paid at auction for a piece of sports memorabilia. That was beaten by a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle baseball card, which went for $12.6 million in New York in August.

A Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls jersey from Game 1 of the 1998 NBA Finals — the season featured on the ESPN and Netflix documentary “The Last Dance” — fetched $10.1 million last month, double what auctioneers expected, to eclipse Maradona’s shirt for the record for game-worn memorabilia.

“2022 has been an amazing year in the sports memorabilia market with records broken on three occasions,” auction house chairman Graham Budd said. “It’s an exciting time in the market and we’re wondering whether this famous football will break records as well.”

The Maradona goal that gave Argentina a 1-0 lead in the quarterfinal against England — but should never have been allowed — has become part of soccer legend.

Maradona jumped as if to head the ball but instead punched it past goalkeeper Peter Shilton. England players protested to Bin Nasser but the goal stood. Maradona quipped afterward that it was scored “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God,” leading to its iconic name.

Maradona used the same ball, the only one used in the quarterfinal, for his brilliant second goal four minutes later. He ran 68 meters from his own half and weaved his way past half the England team before slipping the ball past Shilton to make it 2-0. That goal was voted the World Cup Goal of the Century in 2002.

Argentina won the game 2-1 and went on to lift the World Cup, and the tournament launched Maradona as one of the game’s greatest players. He died in 2020 at the age of 60.

“This ball is part of international football history,” Bin Nasser said in a statement. “It feels like the right time to be sharing it with the world.”

Bin Nasser will also auction the referee shirt he wore for the quarterfinal, the auction house said, and another shirt that Maradona signed for his “eternal friend” at a reunion years after the game.

The seller of the Mantle card was rewarded for a shrewd piece of business after buying it for $50,000 in 1991 and keeping it in mint condition.

Bin Nasser is about to become a millionaire off one of the worst calls in World Cup history.


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