Yet to any objective viewer who takes the time to watch the game in its entirety (it's easily accessible online), it's clear that there is gross hypocrisy in Shilton's sanctimonious denunciation of Maradona's "cheating" the England team out of a chance to play in a World Cup semi-final.
Like most of his teammates, Shilton conveniently forgets that throughout the match, Maradona was the victim of a much more dangerous, brutish form of cheating than his handball goal: systematic, cynical and often brutally violent fouling.
Even before his Hand of God goal, Maradona had already suffered a late, hefty bodycheck; a vicious, lunging, two-footed tackle; and two nasty elbows to the head — all from England's centre-half Terry Fenwick alone. Fenwick would again swing his elbow into Maradona's head for a third time about ten minutes after Maradona's Goal of the Century, but incredibly the only sanction Fenwick would receive during the entire match was a yellow card for that ferocious tackle in the 9th minute.
Yet Fenwick was merely the worst of many culprits. Within the first 32 minutes, Maradona had been hacked down twice by Peter Reid, leveled by Peter Beardsley's two-footed tackle from behind, and cynically tripped up and sent flying by Steve Hodge just outside England's penalty area. Perhaps the most incredible thing about his glorious second goal is that none of the English defenders managed to foul Maradona before he rounded Shilton and scored.
Diego Maradona had his flaws and his demons, very much like his friend Paul Gascoigne, but I saw him as a lovable rogue as well as an artist with the ball. He made many mistakes in his life, but I would argue that the Hand of God is not one of them.
As I said to my friend Anthony McIntyre the other day, Both of Maradona's goals against England were works of staggering genius. Maradona's second goal was of course football poetry incarnate, but his first goal was an ingenious two-fingered riposte to the thuggery that he was forced to endure, not only in that quarter-final, but throughout his entire career, simply because cynical violence was not punished in football then as it is now.
The Hand of God goal epitomises the two qualities I admired most in Maradona: his brilliance with the ball at his feet and then the impish cunning of the little barrio boy who learned his craft on the streets.
May Diego Maradona rest easy now, and may Peter Shilton forever suck lemons.
⏭ Alfie Gallagher is a Sligo based blogger.