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Coming to Maradona's defence

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Tim Vickery | 15:43 UK time, Monday, 3 November 2008

Dante - or it may have been Silvio Dante from the Sopranos - is supposed to have said that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crisis maintain their neutrality.

With that in mind, I felt the need to comment on the feedback from last week's blog, which was about Diego Maradona taking over as coach of Argentina.

Many posts from English readers attacked Maradona as a cheat, which I think is an injustice. I don't recall a player being cheated against as much as Maradona.

When his career began in the mid-70s it is calculated that players were running an average of around 5,000 metres per game. Twenty years later this figure had doubled. This is effectively the span of Diego's playing days. He was active at a time of intense physical development - but played almost his entire career before the mid-90s clampdown on the sliding tackle.

Maradona's famous goal against England

Maradona played the game without the protection from referees that today's stars take for granted. Some of the tackles that were aimed against him would nowadays be worth not only a red card, but a jail sentence as well. Virtually every time he took the field he was on the end of intimidation and violence, as opponents sought to reduce his effectiveness by any means possible.

That 1986 World Cup quarter-final against England is no exception. The film of the tournament shows Terry Fenwick's elbow being pushed into Maradona's face.

It is hardly surprising that those who are on the end of constant cheating develop a cynical side. Older Brazilian referees recall that Pele was a master of conning them into giving free kicks, linking arms with a defender and bringing both of them down while making it appear that he had suffered the foul.

Certainly I think that if I spent years being kicked, jostled and elbowed I might feel within my rights to punch one into the back of the net in the heat of the moment.

It is true that different cultures approach these things in different ways. Bobby Charlton tells the story of how at a Fifa meeting of former players he called for a crackdown on diving.

Someone he calls "an old South American international" apparently replied; "Don't you think, as a professional, that if we can get away with creating an advantage for our side, we really should be applauded?"

I believe there is more tolerance of this type of behaviour in South America, where showing the cunning necessary to get away with something is widely praised. In Brazil it is often said that beating a big rival with an illegal goal adds extra pleasure to the victory.
But before we English try to claim the moral high ground we should forget any notions of perfection.

In his autobiography Martin Peters writes about the game at home to Poland in 1973, which England had to win to qualify for the following year's World Cup. Peters was a magnificent player, and though I've never met him personally, has always come across as an upstanding man.

But 35 years ago, with England a goal down and time running out, he confesses that: "It was looking desperate, and in such circumstances desperate measures are sometimes required." He was tackled inside the area by Poland's left back, "He barely touched me but I went flying. I dived. It wasn't a penalty, but the referee didn't see it that way."

The resulting goal was not enough to qualify England for the World Cup. But Peters' frank admission should be enough to destroy any illusions about England having some natural monopoly on the concept of fair play.

It is unjust, then, to throw the label of cheat at Maradona - just as it is unwise to view him as a god. He is a human being, with remarkable talent, but also with flaws. Indeed, just as with Pele, it is probably the case that his flaws were part of his drive towards greatness.

On the field Maradona gave so much pleasure to so many that he deserves to enjoy a contented and fruitful second half of his life. That's why, although he wouldn't have been my candidate, he should be congratulated on becoming Argentina's new coach - for two reasons.

Firstly because he has recovered sufficiently from his problems to be able to take on the position.

Secondly because he is prepared to put himself on the line. There are many who think that a great idol should never put his prestige at risk. I disagree. That's for museum pieces. Maybe some of the best places in heaven are reserved for those brave enough to keep seeking a new challenge.

Comments on this week's piece in the space below. Other questions on South American football to vickerycolumn@hotmail.com, and I'll pick out a couple for next week.

From last week's postbag;

A question about the Paraguayan striker Salvador Cabanas. I've been looking at his career stats and they are quite impressive, especially his Copa Libertadores record. Why is he not playing in Europe? I was thinking possibly because of his size, he's only 5 8'' I believe. What are your thoughts?
Peter Udstuen

I think he could cope comfortably with the physical aspect of European football. He's short but very stocky, hard to knock off the ball, turns well to either side, is an excellent finisher. More than size, I wonder if age might be against him now. He's 28 - he was something of a late developer, originally a midfielder in Paraguay before being converted into a striker in Chile and Mexico. I think he's earning well in Mexico with America.

What are your thoughts on Rodrigo Palacio's career? His scoring record is outstanding, even better than Stephen Dobbie's in the Scottish first division! Why do you think he hasn't made the move across the pond?
Michael Gunn


Wiry Boca Juniors striker, terrific at using the flanks. Decision time can't be put off much more now. He's 26, Boca have youngsters such as Noir and Mouche who can fill the role, so there may well be pressure for him to go. Two doubts - one is whether his heart is really in a move.

He comes across as a shy figure who if left to his own devices might never leave Boca. The other is the shock he got when coming off the bench in Argentina's opening 2006 World Cup match against Ivory Coast - big, strong opponents against whom he made little impression and wasn't used again in the tournament. I think the step up from the domestic Argentine game might worry him.

Comments

Page 1 of 4

  • Comment number 1.

    Wow, Tim, I never really looked at it in that context before. We all know how Maradona is portrayed over here but it's refreshing to see a different perspective on matters.

    I agree, to an extent, that Maradona's misdeeds were a necessary evil. But, above all, it revealed the predicament that he found himself in. Whenever confronted with an aggressive opponent, Diego had four possible solutions:

    1) In an ideal world, he would ride the tackles, overcoming his aggressive opponents en route to achieving his objective i.e. a goal/assist. But this is not an ideal world.

    2) He could have complained, be it to the ref, the coaches or the authorities. But this being an era where complaining over harsh treatment was frowned upon/laughed at, I don't think it would appeal to Diego.

    3) He could resort to diving/cheating/handling the ball etc... in order to redress the balance (which he did).

    4) Or he could got on with things regardless, taking the rough with the smooth.

  • Comment number 2.

    Good Article again Tim, always well worth a read & even better in Overtime paid territory?! hahaha

    i do agree with the fact that to many people do giv Maradonna grief over it, for me it still doesnt outweigh the fact that in the context and law of the game ots wrong, i dont think hed of gotten half of the stick he has done had it been a dive from a tackle as this is slightly more acceptable as everybody at some time or another in their life takes a dive when the tackle hasnt actually caught them, cause then have the thought in the back of their mind that it is going to catch them so they are already thinking of going down under the challenge?!

    but i totally and whole heartedly agree that he was was completely kicked to death in games, verging on physical assult, just because of his skill and ability on the ball, so that may push any man to want to cheat to gain an advantage?!

    anbody remember the match that Argentina played against Italy?????

    when the Italian defender Gentile kicked seven shades of bottom excrement out of Maradonna????

    the gameplan his manager gave to him was to be no more than 2yards from Maradonna at any time and do what ever neccesary to sop him, injure him if needs be?!

    but i do agree Tim that diving and cheating is seen as part of the game in South America and more acceptable, it is seen as cunning and clever if you can get away with it and do a number on your opponents at the same time, which makes it all the sweeter for them.

  • Comment number 3.

    Great blog Tim.

    I know you receive a lot of praise for this blog, which I understand, but I have often wondered if that is down to the fact you do not comment on issues specifically about English teams.

    Phil McNulty's blogs seem to be praised by one set of supporters and scourned upon by supporters from another team, and the fact that he may have said something about one's team that they don't agree with will often be accompanied by (petty) comments about his skills as a journalist.

    I wonder if this blog about Maradonna will get underneath England supporters skins and this blog may not be as popular as others in the past!!!

    Hopefully not though! I thought it was a very good article, and it's always worth remembering that cultural differences have a massive impact on people's perceptions.

  • Comment number 4.

    Outstanding. This is perhaps the best blog ever published on BBC Sport. England fans would do well to see Fenwick's utterly disgraceful elbow on Maradona, which would receive a lengthy ban these days. By a vast margin, Maradona was more sinned against than sinner.

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 6.

    Although I do disagree with you about the Maradona bit (you are blatantly clutching at straws at his defence) but top work nonetheless.

    Keep it up.

  • Comment number 7.

    Think I agree with you. A gentleman of the game he was not, but few players are, and Maradona never claimed to be one of them. The English are as susceptible to dishonest urges as anyone else -remember Michael Owen's dive against Argentina in the 1998 world cup second round? Had England gone through, we'd be talking to this day about the "celestial tripwire".

  • Comment number 8.

    Wonderful article yet again Mr. Vickery. I fully agree with you on the somewhat misguided opinions of Maradona from what seems to be most English football fans. The man almost miraculously managed to stay relatively inury free amidst some horrifying challeges when compared to today's game, while at the same time doing so much damage to his opponents (mainly on the scoreboard!).
    As Argentina are soon to visit us here in Glasgow, I was wondering - although officially Sergio Batista will be manager - do you think El Diego will be choosing the team behind the scenes?

  • Comment number 9.

    Thank you Tim for continuing to enrich your readers' knowledge of Latin American football and culture. You work miracles in opening people's eyes to the subtleties of perspective.

    This reminded me of Chris Taylor's enjoyable book The Beautiful Game, where he tells about Pele being hacked to the point that he unleashed a flying headbutt on one of his aggressors.

    Keep it up: great stuff!

  • Comment number 10.

    Brilliant article - one mistake though. Just because Maradona was cheated against this does not mean he wasn't a cheat - it just means his cheating was (arguably) more justifiable.

    This is a question for debate and I am of the opinion that it was justifiable given the virtual assaults he was subject to throughout his career as you highlighted.

  • Comment number 11.

    It is a real shame that the 'Hand of God' has become the talking point about that match. The second goal was amazing play and showed the real Maradona.

    Watch video highlights and you will clearly see the opposition defenders attempting to take him out. However, Maradona had the skill to see these challenges coming and still managed to glide past the defenders with the ball stuck to his feet. A magician....

    In my opinion, the best player ever.....

    The English always find a scapegoat for their underachievers....

    You put your left hand in,
    You put your left hand out,
    In, out and you shake it all about,
    You do the hokey cokey and you score a goal,
    That's what it's all about,
    Oh, Diego Maradona,
    Oh, Diego Maradona,
    Oh, Diego Maradona,
    He put the English OUT, OUT, OUT!

  • Comment number 12.

    Although I don't agree with the action of delibrately handling the ball, the fact remains that Maradona was a player to be admired. As Tim pointed out, he played in an era when protection for skillful players was considered a joke.

    The key point you make about England taking the higher moral ground is an interesting one. In theory I agree with taking the higher moral ground however it is impossible to implement in practise. Money in the game has put this arguement to bed and money & morals never mix well.

    The game is in need of video technology for controversial goal decisions. Only yesterday I watched Derby get robbed by 2 referee decisions not to award a goal. It would have taken all of 30 seconds for a 4th offical to confirm that both attempts were valid goals.

  • Comment number 13.

    I often have to laugh at the hypocrisy of those who label Maradona a cheat. Very often anglo-saxon fans will applaud a heavy challenge by a midfield enforcer or a centre-half, when the object of that challenege is to intimidate/hurt an opposing player, often with a degree of ambivalence as to whether or not the ball is even capable of being won. I rarely see a centre half admit to a foul when he has flown into a tackle like this, often blatantly lying that he has taken the ball. I fail to see the difference between what Diego did in 86, or diving, and the physical intimidation I have just mentioned.

    Football is a game, you are in it to win and, if possible, to embarass your opponents with your skill and cunning. If the game is won by bending the rules a bit, and you feel aggrieved, blame the referee. The opposing player, remember, owes you nothing.

  • Comment number 14.

    Excellant Article Tim. I eagerly await your article's every week or so.

    I totally understand why he did what he did (I would have done the same if it meant my country would qualify for the Semi-Finals of the World Cup), but it was still cheating. Nothing riles me more than to see diving. I believe the premiership is becoming more like this but is still not as bad as Spain or France.

    Can't wait to see Maradona in charge for his first game which is incidently against Scotland. Hampden here I come!

  • Comment number 15.

    One further point: you really have to admire the skill of the handball, too; I'm still almost tempted to defend its legality... You can't blame Maradona for exploiting the fact that Shilton couldn't jump.

  • Comment number 16.

    I don't care how you dress it up, he cheated in the game against England and never had the grace to admit it.

    His coaching of Argentina will be his comeuppance. It will be a disaster and yet another stain on his reputation, such as it is now.

    Talent isn't enough to be a true hero.

  • Comment number 17.

    Extremely well written blog... Can't disagree with anything you said. And let's face it, the biggest issue here is that it happened against England.

    If Maradona was to score this goal against another country, lets say a continental rival of England. Then went on to call it the hand of god, it probably would have been celebrated by a lot of the same who have labeled him a cheat. Thats football fans for you.

  • Comment number 18.

    I love your articles and I agree, diving is always seen as cheating but hard fouls seem to go unnoticed, I also remember you (I think) saying that while diving is a way of conning the ref and is seen as unacceptable but conning the ref into giving a throwing or corner which could potentially lead to a goal seems to go under the radar.

    Maradona was a great player, hopefully he'll make a great manager too, I have no bitter feelings towards Maradona, it would be hypocritical to do so, doesn't mean it didn't hurt though.

  • Comment number 19.

    Goal of the century:

    what everybody seems to forget is that it was an own goal.

    If I remember correctly Terry Butcher slides in to put the ball past Shilton before Maradonut can pull the trigger.

    Own goal of the century more like.

  • Comment number 20.

    @16

    I think the first part of your comment is well addressed in the blog. How about the elbow by that Terry Fendwick. The funny thing is everybody talk about the "moment of cheat" from Maradona but do not comment on that elbow. That was a straight red. I remember that commentator, an english one that too, yelling about the elbow.

    As far as grace is concerned, sure he didnt admit it that time. But, he paid a heavy price for his arrogance as his later life would suggest.

    Overall, you sound bitter. Get over that goal. Afterall, he showed with the second goal what he can do.

  • Comment number 21.

    Hmm, so because opponents fouled him, that makes it ok to punch the ball into the back of the net, celebrate like it was a legitimate goal, and then afterwards claim it "was the head of Maradona"?

    I don't begrudge Argentina the win because they were the better team on the day, Maradona's second goal is arguably the greatest ever scored, and but for 15 mins when John Barnes came on England weren't even in Argentina's class. But I fail to see why the fouls Maradona suffered in other matches legitimise one of the most notorious examples of cheating in sports history. I suppose it also makes the fact he was kicked out of the '94 world cup for using ephedrine ok.

    The BBC - where morals go to die. So glad I have to pay a licensee fee to help fund it.

  • Comment number 22.

    Well said Tim, if Diego had punched the ball into the net of any other team on the planet we would not have heard so very much about it....but how dare he do it to the great and the good of team England.

    When in Naples, his cunningness was applauded as is the way with Latin nations, cheating is not how it is always perceived.

    His record for Barca was great considering he was assulted in every game he played before Goikoetxea was true to his word and broke Maradona's ankle.

    For me he was and still is the best player I have seen, his close control, ballskills, range of passing and finishing was second to none.

  • Comment number 23.

    Brilliant blog.

    Exactly right, there is nothing more sickening than British football fans moralising about players because of our apparently ingrained sense of fair play.

    Quite frankly it is rubbish we are as guilty as the next nation and we can no longer hide behind the 86 world cup as a reason not to accept Maradona as the true great he is/was.

  • Comment number 24.

    "I don't care how you dress it up, he cheated in the game against England and never had the grace to admit it."

    He did, in 2004.

    He called it revenge for the Falklands.

    Which I'm sure will endear him even more.

  • Comment number 25.

    You cant defend wrong with wrong. 2 Wrongs dont make a right. Maradonna is a cheat and a disgrace to football for what he done. As much as I respect your blog Tim, but to go out and defend a cheat is apalling. He cheated to help win a game and that's the only way to look at it. A gentleman footballer would take the dirty tackles and abuse on the chin (ie someone like Heskey) and not try find a way to go "evens" with the opposition.

  • Comment number 26.

    To #19

    It wasn't an own goal - Butcher has even said that he would love to claim it as an own goal to take it away from Maradona but unfortunately he can't because he didn't touch it - it was Maradona who managed to get a nick on it to put it past Shilton.

    And Vickers has no obligation to write a moral article - it's called a blog - and gives his opinion, moral or immoral.

  • Comment number 27.

    Too right hendero... special pleading or what? It illuminates the triumph of moral relativism in society today.

  • Comment number 28.

    How ridiculous that the Mail brigade are now attempting to use this blog as a stick with which to beat the BBC.

  • Comment number 29.

    Really refreshing perspective Tim, I hope this opens a few eyes here in England. Yes Maradona cheated but so do players - many of them English - every week and there is no difference. Cheating/rule breaking is not to be admired or encouraged but for one incident to be so prominent so long after it occurred is laughable when one thinks of all the examples of cheating there have been since then. However I fear some England fans will never drop this hypocritical grudge.

  • Comment number 30.

    haha - love it OP!

    it's so true - we need to take a look at our own game before so vehemently criticising others - why is it when Gerrard or Owen goes down all too easily in the area it barely gets a mention but when it's Drogba or C Ron, it's another foreigner bringing the game into disrepute. The fact is everyone's at it, English or not.

  • Comment number 31.

    #25

    Who is defending wrong with wrong.
    What Tim is saying is that if you get the wrong end of the stick you will try to give it back in the same way. If you want to call it wrong dont forget to call everything wrong. And in this case it is the elbow of that English defender.
    Why are you not commenting on it.


    The rest of your rant is typical.
    And he did take it on the chin and moved on. Else he too would have let loose an elbow back on that defender.


    And talking about Maradona, dont forget
    that tackle by the Butcher of Bilbao. That was one of the craziest tackle a footballer can suffer.

  • Comment number 32.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 33.

    Hey Tim,

    Great article, as always.

    I totally agree with everything you said. The thing that shocks me is that I never knew there was another Englishman out there who thought the same! Although maybe you're not English...

    The only reservation I have about El Diego becoming boss of Argentina is the problem of top players making the crossover to management. SAF, Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho never set the world alight as players, Keegan and Hoddle didn't as managers. Does Maradona have the same gift as Ferguson?

  • Comment number 34.

    You are really missing the main point of the '86 handball. It wasn't so much the fact that he instinctively stuck out an arm and tapped the ball past a flailing and useless Peter Shilton.

    It was the fact that having done it, he looked around, realised he'd got away with it, and ran off celebrating.

    That is the mark of a real cheat.

  • Comment number 35.

    You do what you have to do for your club/country.

    You see the problem with us English is we are so hypocritical we are blinded by it. If our club or country did it then people wouldn't have any problems deep down although they probably might to give a false appeal. But when another club/country commits acts deemed as cheating then they are outraged etc...

  • Comment number 36.

    It is comical reading some of the replies to what is a fantastic blog; all those that still brandish him a 'cheat' - would those people say the same about Gerrard, I wonder? He has, on many occasions, gone to ground, both in and out of the box, with the express intention of conning the ref into giving a free-kick, or penalty.
    It seems there is a sense that England as a football team can only ever be sinned against - while ignoring any incidents played to our own advantage. (An epidemic not helped by pundits following the same line).
    A fantastic blog, Tim, it's interesting that many feel that goal is the sole cause of failure in that competition, but the masterful second from Diego, and the elbow are consigned to mere side-notes.

  • Comment number 37.

    great blog tim.
    agree with everyone you said but i didnt need another blog for that lol

    anyway

    #1

    you imply that maradona cheated all the time, which we all know is simply not true

    #25

    where to start?
    the treatment todays players (Heskey) get is nowere near the kind of tackles maradona and other skillful players of that era had to put up with
    he cheated to win a game?
    no he 'cheated' to score 1 goal, no better or worse that what goes on in EVERY game of football. It doesnt make it right but its part of the game and always has been

    Maradona, although flawed was a brilliant footballer and the best of his generation and quite possibly the best to ever play the game. He played because of his love of the game, look at the players who dive every week in the premiership and are on thousands a week, give me your maradona's anytime

  • Comment number 38.

    Hmmm, I don't recall ever seeing Steven Gerrard leaping up and punching the ball into the net. Not for club or country. There is a difference between that and going down under a challenge when the defender gets some ball, some leg and other than in the most extreme cases, it's very difficult to say for sure the player was acting.

    I'm not sure I can think of a single incident in England football's history where you can honestly say, "That was out-and-out cheating." Sure, Owen might have stayed on his feet against Argentina in the '98 World Cup, but would anyone really equate that to the hand of God? The keepers don't even dive early in penalty shoot-outs. Which is probably why they always lose.

  • Comment number 39.

    I really enjoyed the article about Maradonna and his 'cheating' (and also the comments about others' tactics), which added an excellent perspective to the 'act'.
    Also, being an oldish Scotsman, I can't say I was totally unhappy with his 'goal', although I do despise cheats in any walk of life - including sport (and football in particular).
    In every match we see on TV these days, there are examples of cheating - jersey pulling, diving, pretending to be hurt, and so on.
    I am sometimes ashamed that our so-called top footballers - whose actions are mimicked by the millions of adoring young fans throughout the world - can look themselves in the mirror if they sit back the next day and watch re-runs of the previous day's match.
    I guess you will rceive many articles from people like me, a forward by nature, who received a fair bit of 'stick' from the tougher guys who played in defence, and who would do anything they could to prevent a forward getting past them! I had to learn to accept that it was all part of the game, albeit a part that I couldn't personally embrace.
    Finally, the real point of my note was to say that one of my heroes in the late 60's/early 70's, was George Best. One morning I opened the daily paper to find a photo of George - a back view with him wearing only a pair of y-fronts - and his back and legs were black and blue from all the elbows and kicks he received.
    I don't remember if George Best ever dived or cheated in his life - we didn't see all that many games on TV in those days! My memories of him were of a man with sublime skills - almost equalling the greatest - Pele - and Maradonna, for me the next-best.
    The reason I wrote this was really just to say that the name of George Best should have been included in your 'blog' as a wonderful exponent, ambassador, of 'the beautiful game'.

  • Comment number 40.

    All footballers, here and abroad, follow the creed described by the 'old South American international'. Cheating is the name of the game. That Maradona gained a reputation as a cheat in a game where cheating is the norm simply means his cheating was more direct and high profile.

    As for the defence that he was on the receiving end of so many rough tackles (boo hoo, my heart bleeds), perhaps then the reason for his cocaine habit was simply that so many people around him were snorting that he felt left out?

  • Comment number 41.

    Arguably the most gifted player of all time.

    Unfortunately, he did cheat and takes great pride in the fact that he cheated. Having spent many a year in Argentina and personally meeting him outside La Bombonera my opinion of him changed greatly.

    He most certainly is not the true gentleman that Pele has grown into. Spends most of his time in strip clubs having have many a problem with cocaine. Not that this should overshadow his football ability but in my personal opinion a bad appointment for the most technical team on the planet in this moment.

    He pulled off one of the greatest sporting cheats of all time in the most important sporting competition, only after the Olympics.

    I have seen books, t shirts, tattoo's, the list go's on and on with that very picture of him handling the ball into the net.

    How can we say it is unjust that he is labeled a cheat?

    He cheated, plain and simple.

  • Comment number 42.

    to be honest i dont agree with you. Maradona cheated and he should be remembered for doing that. He knew he was doing wrong (although as you explained I suppose as he was South American he wouldn't see it like that) But we know he did wrong, he cost us that world cup. I know if i was playing i wouldn't ever cheat no matter the circumstance (tempted to maybe). Its similar to C.Ronaldo i guess, in the fact that most man u fans turn a blind eye to Ronaldo's diving. I mean i'm a chelsea fan and i dislike Drogba because of his overdramatic dives. Visciously tackling/attacking someone i can understand as its probably easy on the football pitch to lose your temper, but cheating requires real thought. Players who cheat shouldnt be representing their countries (they should at least take some sort of punishment for it, not just write it down in their biographies when they've happily retired,) Maradona should publicly apologise for his "hand of God" move (if he hasn't already i dont actually know)

  • Comment number 43.

    There is something very English about the idea that a defender cheating (shirt pulling, dirty tackles, elbows) is not only fine, but is referred to with admirable terms like 'getting stuck in' or 'sophisticated' but an attacker cheating (diving, mainly) deserves him being publicly stoned to death.

    Maradona was a cheat. But the hypocrisy is not giving the same label to those who fouled him every 6.2 seconds.

  • Comment number 44.

    So if I decide to punch the ball in the net instead of legally finishing it then that's ok?

    What makes him a worse cheat than anyone is that he was fantastically talented and should have been a role model to his generation. Why did he need to cheat more than cloggers like Fenwick or Butcher? Neither of those players would have contemplated doing what he did if they had been in his position, despite their limited talents, and neither resorted to illegal stimulants.

    Instead, behaviour like this fuels revenge and hence the even greater animosity between the two countries - even worse than it would have been. And ignorant compositions like yours merely excuses an injustice and makes the Argies seem to be the wronged party! What good does that do them or us?

    The truth is that Maradona himself suffered for his sins and nearly died for them too - only since cleansing himself has he been able to recover to a near normal life - surely a lesson for all sinners/cheats!! Redemption is possible but only when you face up to the errors of your ways!

  • Comment number 45.

    This blog is superb. I agree it may be the single best blog ever published by bbc sport. I think one can also raise the point that many English fans who claim to loathe Maradona as a cheat, may well have a secret admiration for him and even a grudging respect for what he did in 86 and how he has defended himself and never felt shame for it. He may be a cheat but at least hes an honest cheat, and as Tim says, maybe one who deserves a bit of slack. Also, we should add that Maradona in his autobiography actually cited the Falklands as extra motivation for his performace against England, and since Argentina felt cheated out of 'their' land, his own action was simply like for like and actually only a retaliatory blow. I believw thats why he named it the 'hand of god'.

  • Comment number 46.

    #38 Gerrard against andorra he hit the deck then under minimal contact now surely the 100 grand a week man should have been able to have got on with winning without being a cheat.


    What about owens one against argentina in the 2002 world cup when replays showed absolutely NO contact, that was the payback for the hand of god we were told.

    The other thing is that as far as i read it Vickery is pointing out that many who call maradona a cheat are quite happy to support players who do exactly the same thing (The last world cup when crouch grabbed sancho's hair to get england a win against t&t). I don't remember an outcry then but that was just cunning and not cheating i guess.

    Thanks again Tim for another thought provoking article! Last weeks one had the FM community up in arms till some realised they were a bit silly!


    p.s Oh and for 44 are you joking mate so it's ok to elbow someones face off because you have limited ability! your argument is just so flawed those two can't be cheats as they always played fair by hacking and ram raiding everything that moved!! Lets be honest every player is a cheat as they all break the rules!!!

  • Comment number 47.

    PS Since when was a sliding tackle cheating?? Everyone played by the same rules in the 70s and 80s and you are not telling me that South American teams did not tackle in the same way as Europeans - truth is that if the England team played like the Argies or Uruguayans Maradona would have been lucky to have been walking, let alone scoring, a fabulous second goal against England in 86!! Who are the bigger cheats in that context then?

    Your piece reads like the witterings of a jaundiced Celt - far from partial. The truth is that the rules are the rules - Maradona was a cheat and admits to still being one - that is not unfair, it is a fact!

  • Comment number 48.

    So defending Maradona by claiming because he was wronged it's almost accepted that he too should be allowed to wrong? A blatant handball in order to grab his team a lead they may not have had otherwise? (They'd have probably won that match anyway, but still...). Performance enhancing drugs in order to overcome his deteriorating physical condition? The guy was a cheat, and trying to excuse that fact with tales of how others have also bent the rules is not a case of defence; it just further strengthens the fact that 1) Maradona was a cheat and 2) there is so much riding on top level sport the pressure on these men becomes crippling.

    I love the blog, in fact I think it's always the best bit of reading one can get from the net, but I, for one, will never abide by the party line that he is the best player ever; the most talented? Perhaps. The best exponent of the game? Not a chance.

  • Comment number 49.

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  • Comment number 50.

    There are several flaws in this post:

    1) your argument might hold sway with a neutral audience but not with the "wronged" fans (I imagine Cameroon fans are still not fond of Lineker, for example, whereas other fans may not see it as harshly);

    2) there are degrees of cheating, and some cannot be defended - diving/simulation is sadly a part of the game these days (and especially in SA from your post) but deliberately punching the ball into the net is a step above that and cannot be condoned under any circumstances;

    3) it's a straight red card if you use the hand of god to stop a goal, so why should it not be if you do so to score a goal and, in that case, you can never defend such actions;

    4) to condone this sort of cheating for any reason (kicked around the park or not) is a slippery slope - next you'll be allowing players to fix games to ensure favourable results; and

    5) in the closing stages of a major competition, with so much at stake, no amount of cheating of any sort should ever be passed over - it all needs to be stamped out in the game from the top down, and the WC finals is the pinnacle of the game and the first place to start.

    Therefore, I cannot agree with your view in any way shape or form (although that's not to let English or any players off the hook who also cross the line of fair play).

    I'm hoping we get the Argies in the WC and utterly destroy them in a match where Capello's ice cold, shrewd tactical genius completely undoes and embarrasses Maradona in a massive England win - and without a dodgy call or hint of cheating in sight. He deserves it.

  • Comment number 51.

    Diego Maradona remains the greatest player of all time ahead of Pele. He may have cheated for the first goal againt us, but what about the second??!! - pure magic.

    The true test of his legacy is this: can you name any other Argentine players in the world-cup winning side of 1986? You may reel off one or two. Now apply this test to Brazil's team of 1970 - bet you can name at least half the team.

    I wish Diego all the best and agree with Tim - at least he has the guts to take the job.

  • Comment number 52.

    Yes Tim.
    Whilst that is true.
    That doesnt detract from the fact he is a cheat.
    And refs had it right in those days, cos u could actually tackle unlike now where th FA and FIFA prevent defenders breathin on an opposition player.
    Its sad and Maradona is still and always will be a cheat!
    Plus Pele was 10x as talented as Maradona, ther have been many other, and will be many more, players more talented than Maradona.
    Nowhere near the besst ever.

  • Comment number 53.

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  • Comment number 54.

    Nearly 23 years later and still people crying about Maradona and that goal, of course no english player cheats or dives do they? No doubt England would have got to final in 86 beating the evil west germans 5-0 if Maradona hadn't been such a spoilsport.

  • Comment number 55.

    interesting point Tim, but i'm afraid you have fallen in love with South American football, and lost your identity mate. A true Englishman would never stick up for Maradona - never. shame on you.

  • Comment number 56.

    I always read your articles Tim, even though i would prefer you wrote on other subjects, you make your articles about South American football very interesting, and they are always worth a read.
    Congratulations on such consistently good and interesting work.

  • Comment number 57.

    Great Blog, I wasn't expecting this from an English blogger.

    Does anyone remember the recent Paul scholes incident? Where he tried to score by hand? It's funny how nobody has mentioned it.

    Maradona - Greatest player ever .. His second goal against England was the bestest Goal ever.


  • Comment number 58.

    #53: You're post is so utterly presumptuous. How do you know I don't believe Rio is a cheat? Does that in some way hide the fact that Maradona is a convicted drug cheat? Lets not hide behind silly rhetoric and just tell it like it is; Maradona is a cheat of the worst kind; it's as simple as that. Whether that's a case of culture, of upbringing, of being wronged, handling the ball to prevent a goal is sending off offence as it's against the rules, therefore, doing it to score a goal in such a deliberate manner should be held with similar disdain.

    I am no hypocrite; a cheat is a cheat, I don't care what his nationality is. But using a two wrongs policy in order to gain empathy is silly. Ben Johnson's case almost single handedly ruined an entire sport; should we therefore learn to empathise because everyone else was at it too? He was a cheat and there's no getting round that fact, same with Maradona, same with the "English heroes" you're trying to paint me on the side of.

    I have nothing against Maradona the player, fantastic marvel that he was, but a lot of his actions were deplorable, and like I said this come down to two things: 1) his cheating ways and 2) the sheer magnitude and importance of top level sport.

    The guy was a great, there's no denying that, but the guy was not the greatest; his penchant for cheating is only a small part of the reason I sit in another corner - and just so you don't think I have an agenda, the greatest also wasn't Brazilian.

  • Comment number 59.

    I always liked thinking of Maradona in that game against England in terms of his goals representing the concept of 'gambeta'.

    Check this excerpt to illustrate the point:

    "Fellow Argentinian footballer Jorge Valdano, who scored the winning goal in the 1986 final against West Germany, writes that the concept of gambeta is central to understanding the lives of people growing up in Argentinian slums. Gambeta comprises two elements: supreme skills with creativity and a taste for deceit. Just as the second "Miracle Goal" against England in the quarterfinal in Mexico 1986 is one component of gambeta, so is the first controversial "Hand of God" goal.

    Which (no matter what your view of Maradona) sounds a lot more romantic than saying he was a bit of a cheater.

  • Comment number 60.

    There is absolutely no point in denying he was one of the best players in football history, and anyone who thinks otherwise should be watching something else.

    Tim, it's not that it adds "extra pleasure" from the victory. The fact that said rival is "extra angry" is what makes it funny. Even though it usually happened more frequently in here, these times the brazilian refereeing is being less complacent with dives and the such.

    Oh, and, to all the ones that claim that diving and such are horrible, please go tell this to Cristiano Ronaldo and the ManU fans before wasting your lines across the atlantic.

  • Comment number 61.

    There are so many jaundiced Celts contributing to this blog that it is virtually unreadable. I did not say Maradona was a bad player - he was the player of his generation. He had skills that others did not - this is not jaundiced it is fact. As for England there is obviously cheating - Scholes punched the ball in v Poland in 99 for example. That was cheating. And there are many more.

    So what is your problem with calling Maradona a cheat??? Maybe you should ditch the navy blue/green kits and both adopt all yellow in the future - when is there going to be one Scots/Irish contributor who actually acknowledges the truth??

    As for Fenwick if he had been sent off no-one would have complained but I bet he would not have done what Maradona did - he would not have been so cunning.

    Not all problems in the world are due to the English.

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  • Comment number 63.

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  • Comment number 64.

    I feel its prudent to point out that its not just English fans but Brazilians as well who often bring up Maradona's infamous handball when the Argie's name comes up in the Pele vs Maradona debate! Around the world, whenever a point has to made about Maradona's flawed genius, its among first things thats brought up ahead of his cocaine addiction, hell even in German footie shows! Its as if the infamous goal is some focal point for criticising him. Whether such an attitude is right or wrong, I cant say, but I personally think its that episode and the cocaine addiction which prevents him from rising above Pele in footballing hegemony and FIFA circles.

    If he's gotten his life back on track and wants to manage his country; its good for him and the Argies. I understand Phil's point but I am not wishing him or the Argies any luck. After all, for on their day our boys dont need any outside help to self-destruct at a World Cup - they manage it pretty well on their own as it is :-)

  • Comment number 65.

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  • Comment number 66.

    PS We won the world cup - it was not cheating it was an error by a match official - I suppose Hunt should have slam-dunked the rebound in the net off the bar like any Scot would have done, eh?? I am not xenophobic either - but you obviously are - as you are also trophyless!!!

  • Comment number 67.

    its funny to read so many people misconstrue what was said in the article. Those who have claimed there are levels of cheating are bringing up an argument that is indefensible. Who decides the level of cheating? is a shirt pull level 1 and then 'hand of god' level 10? To say there are levels is ridiculous as it is bringing an even more subjective view on something that is contentious enough.

    Also, those of you who comment on the blatant cheating of that goal are correct but the only reason you remember is because it was in such a high profile match. If he had dived to get a pen and tucked it away he would have got the same amount of grief. how many people on here can name 3 instances of a prem footballer using his hand to try and get a goal? You cant because they are forgotten as soon as linekar and co have stopped chatting on motd.

    I think it was about time that someone commented on the fickle nature of football fans. To call him a cheat is fine but then so is every footballer who has played the game pretty much. The degree of cheating is irrelevant as there is no way of calculating such a thing, to those who still claim he robbed us of a world cup, get over it we wouldnt have won anyway, look at the other goal. they had more talent in 1 player as we had on the whole pitch

  • Comment number 68.

    Dear, Mr. Vickery
    I am responding to your blog on defending Maradonna as a cheat and your opinions as to why he deserves this position that the A.F.A. has afforded him.
    I can with a clear conscience say this"Maradonna was a cheat" I am not saying this because of a perception of diving(which I never thought of Diego Maradonna). I am stating this because it is a fact. I do my homework and with such a bold statement as mine , I feel a responsibilty to give reference to this fact..Maradonna was disqualified from 1994 World cup because of cheating e.g. drug test.Yes that is cheating regardless if it was a performance enhancer or just for a feel good thing, it is cheating.I am surprised you wasn't aware of this, you being a journalist, I am also stunned that a journalist from the BBC defended cheating when it is so well documented.
    I also find your statement, "Firstly because he has recovered sufficiently from his problems to be able to take on the position" to be ridiculous and reckless. Maradonna has had chemical dependency issues as recent as 2007, and again it is well documented. I find it deplorable that you seem to know he has , "recovered" when in fact you have no idea.Add the stresses of qualifications for a world cup especially with such an icon at such a passionate country.I personally feel as if it makes it a high risk relapse waiting to happen.I am sure many expert Doctors would agree with me, allthough I am just stating my opinion on this.
    As a journalist your blog is full of third person stories or your opinions.Opinions and stories are fine when they are represented as one.When opinions are stated as facts as two of your statements conclude.Then a journalist's opinion is nothing more than a farce, and disguised as a fact.As such is your blog.
    Thank you for your time, Daniel Maddalena.Springfield Ohio USA

  • Comment number 69.

    THERE IS NO JUSTIFICATION FOR CHEATING

    In a world of digenerating values acticles like this a just fuel to toal disorder --let's rip up the rule book and just watch mayhem--in this world Vickery you are the first to receive the fatal blow.

  • Comment number 70.

    George Best faced FAR worse treatment and less protection in the 70s an still never cheated.

    Lineker faced similar intimidation and bad tackles in the same era and never cheated like Maradona.

    The logic/reasoning in defense of Maradona is fallacious.

    e.g.

    Maradona was mistreated as MANY skilled players were But they did NOT resort to the cheating and the extent/level of cheating that Maradona got up to.

    I understand the point of saying he was cheated against many times so he might have wanted to reciprocate, the problem is;

    The extension of such logic when taken out of the context of hitting back against those cheating against him in games would be akin to.....

    A man not beating up those that have beat him up, but rather...

    Of a man beating up any innocent man he wants in future on the grounds that he was once unfairly beaten. Try making that logic stand up in court!

    Maradona was cheated against and it could be argued that returning the favour has a peverse logical fairness to it.

    But to suggest as this article does that Maradona was ok to cheat those that did not cheat him because he has been cheated by other different players and teams in the past is ridiculous!!!

    The extent of the cheating is also an issue. You canhot say that going to ground under some contact is remotely the same thing as it is NOT.

    I am NOT aware of many players across the world who would do/have done what Maradona did. That is not a British thing.

    The fact is Maradona cheated in a despicable way and no amount of moral relativism or cultural explanations can wipe that fact away. I am perfectly aware of the fact that the culture of Argentine football is different and I am not a little Englander or a right wing reactionary (liberal Guardian reader who regulally watches La Liga, Seria a, etc) but that does not make cheating this badly right!

    Brazilian players and teams have not traditionaly embraced cheating like Argentina and Maradona did, neither have any other nation, teams etc

    In fact virtually no footballers on any continent have gone for and tried to excuse away or even reval in the handball goal like Maradona has (though Messi in awre of Maradona does try.


    So let's not try and justify the dark side of Maradona and just stick to the truth.

    That he is one of the greatest players of all time, one of the best driblers of a football ever who scored one of if not the greatest goal of all time against England.

    As a player Maradona is one of if not my favourite player ever, but he was also at times anasty cheat.

  • Comment number 71.

    Lionel Messi scored a very similar goal with his hand for Barcelona but I haven't heard him being branded a cheat.

  • Comment number 72.

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  • Comment number 73.

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  • Comment number 74.

    Great players are always remembered for what they produced on the pitch, not necessarily activities off it. With Maradonut I remember the following:

    -playing at Wembley at 17 yrs old
    -getting turned over by Gentile
    -Butcher of Bilbao turning him over
    -Butcher of Ipswich scoring the Goal of the Century
    -Hand ball


    mmmmmm



  • Comment number 75.

    Tim, football in south america is a culture the english will never understand...NEVER! the mentalities are way too contrasting and it is hard for a hard-headed, closed-minded individual from either side to travel to the other side and cope. that's why i have much respect for you! i cannot stand the english i play football with in university. but i have to accept it because there's no such thing as the right/wrong way of playing football. "get rid of it", "get stuck in" and "stop showboating" are things i still cannot understand. so the english can call el diego a cheat, we'll say they haven't changed the way the play football since it was invented...i dont care anymore, i want o play football!!!

  • Comment number 76.

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  • Comment number 77.

    He cheated by using his fist to punch the ball into the net, he will be for ever remembered as such by Engalnd fans end of.
    What makes me laugh most is how hypocritical the Argentinans are, they cheat constantly but are the first to claim they have been sinned against, like their behaviour when they got booted out of the last world cup.
    But it was great to get revenge by knocking them out of the 2002 world cup in the group stages when they had self proclaimed themselves as favourites, a game which Maradonna had declared they must never be defeated in because of his cheating in 86.

  • Comment number 78.

    What ever you think of Maradona he had sreaks of brillance. If you get the chance watch film documentary Maradona by Kusturica is wonderful his rise from the shant town[not unlike Tevez] playing for Boca Juniors going to Europe and winning the World Cup. Even Castro was in awe of him the man behind the myth.Next February his daughter Gianna is having a baby boy her fiance is Kun Augero Ath Madrid 3rd best player in the world at the moment.What a gene pool that baby will have any ideas for a name mine is Di Stephano Augero after THE greatest ever Argentinan player Alfredo Di Stephano

  • Comment number 79.

    Of course, Maradona was cheated against, and, of course, he was capable of cheating.

    But the thing that irritates me most (even after all this time) is that Shilton should have got there first and dealt with it. Maradona should never have had the opportunity to cheat in this instance.

    Yet who was in goal 4 years later? Again, it was a man imitating aa sack of potatoes - Germany's goal, the penalties, etc.

  • Comment number 80.

    It's funny how Brits usually remember Diego's hand goal and not his masterpiece, the one everybody else around the world remembers.

    Let me tell you something about him: he is one of the best footballers ever, but also a human being with a horrible illness called drug addiction.

    Other than that he's a pretty cool bloke, really. Not a egomaniacal lowlife like many protray him to be but an actual nice guy. He'd never say crap about other footballers like Pelé does for example. In fact, he's usually very respectful of and loyal to his colleagues, especially the younger players. (Not fond of Passarella and Ramón Díaz though because of the Boca-River thing).

    He's also personable, funny, smart, and passionate for--and knowledgable of -- the game we all love. He's the type of lad you'd like to 'ave a beer with (if you spoke Spanish, of course).

    Moreover, Diego is a loving father and a generous friend. Everybody close to him have nothing negative to say about his character (as far as I know not even his ex wife, and that in my book is reason enough to canonize him).

    In sum, Diego is no doubt a complex and troubled individual, but he is, above all, a great person. And also --and this is the only thing that should matter to us-- he truly was outstanding on the field, wasn't it? Especially with his feet, but not too shabby with the hands either, right Brits?

  • Comment number 81.

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  • Comment number 82.

    post 68, Danny I've tried to read your post, I've held it up to the light to see if there's some hidden meaning in secret ink and I still can't make much sense of it.

    What i write is a farce, apparently, because I am presenting opinions as facts. And the one you take exception to is that Maradona has recovered sufficiently to take on this new position.

    That's not my opinion - it is the opinion of the AFA, who presumably regard it as a fact. Please note that I did say that he would not have been my choice to become Argentina's coach.

    I don't think it's so much a case of condoning Maradona's mis-deeds. I have my utopias as well, and would love it if there was no cheating in football - the day the human being reaches perfection we may just get there.

    What I don't like is the cheap and thoughtless labelling. As I wrote in the blog, I don't recall anyone being as cheated against as Maradona. If we're going to brand him as a cheat then the vast majority of those who have played the game also deserve the same label - especially those who try to kick and intimidate talent like Maradona's out of the game.

    I grew up watching and admiring Martin Peters. He has had the courage to admit that he took a dive and conned the ref in an important game. I don't condone it, but I'm not going to label him a cheat - just a human being, flaws and all.

  • Comment number 83.

    Top riposte Tim...........

  • Comment number 84.

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  • Comment number 85.

    Appreciate you taking the time to reply, Tim.

    However, I must once again ask, forget the handball for a second and take into account his use of performance enhancers; drugs taken in order to enhance his physical capabilities and give him the kind of advantages he otherwise would not have. I'm sorry but this is more than human error and the disposition to make mistakes, this is calculated cheating and a conscious attempt to gain an edge over competitors and over the body's natural descent.

    Maradona was cheated against, as flair players always were and always will be, but at least he played in an era when the red card wasn't merely a myth, it was actually a measure that was used; Best, Puskas, Di Stffano, Pele (watch the 1966 world cup and his only game vs Mexico at the 62 world cup for proof) had to deal with strong arm tactics that would go with barely the warning of a referee's whistle, never mind a yellow card. And whilst those players may well have resorted to gamesmanship from time to time, none were as calculated or as blatant as that handball and none of the above were convicted for drug use. Therein lies the difference.

  • Comment number 86.

    I feel this brings up an interesting debate about different peoples view of what cheating is. Tims often used and very true phrase that football is a universal language spoken in different accents also comes into play here.

    Traditionally we English consider things like diving and deliberate handballs, like Maradonas, as more serious an offence than a dangerous challenge, the likes of which Maradona was frequently on the end of.

    I believe this is because things like diving can win you a penalty and free kicks which directly can effect the result of a game. A bad challenge is much easier to spot by the referee than a subtle dive and therefore, for me, a dive is worse. A South American perspective would likely be the opposite. A bad challenge, whilst I certainly don't condone it, is less cheating in my book. You cannot directly win a penalty or score a goal through a dirty challenge. You most certainly can through a dive and or a deliberate handball.

    I've always said that a rule should be introduced that if a player is proved after a game to have deliberately dived to win a penalty he should be given at least a 10 match ban. There has to be a deterrent in my book.

  • Comment number 87.

    I've always admired Tim Vickery's writing but this article was very sad, and his attempt to exonerate Maradona is deplorable.
    You seem to have forgotten Tim that Maradona also took drugs while playing and was thrown out of the World Cup because of that. So he is a DOUBLE CHEAT.

  • Comment number 88.

    Excellent point Sir-Herbert

  • Comment number 89.

    Excellent article again Tim. I am also a subscriber to World Soccer and have long admired your articles and reports.

    If you or any of the other posters have time, have a read of this poor bit of journalism for a contrast in journalistic ability:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-1082093/HATCHET-MAN-Its-terrible-message-sent-cheat-Maradona-national-team-boss.html

    For a long time I have been interested to read about the South American attitude to diving and to be honest, the british should get off their moral high ground. If Aberdeen (my team) won the Scottish Cup through scoring a last minute winner from the penalty spot because 1 of our players had dived to win the penalty, i'd praise the diver for that. If the other way about, yeah naturally I would be dissapointed and angry, but at the same time be either angry with the defender for allowing the striker the opportunity to dive or the referee for being conned by it.

  • Comment number 90.


    Nice blog Tim.

    Maradona has been a great footballer. We need to look at the brighter side and the sheer joy he gave to millions with his dribbling, passing and goal scoring abilities.

    To err is human but to forgive is divine. Let us wish Maradona all the very best in his coaching and in life.



    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 91.

    Bringing the dope scandal of 1994 is very interesting.
    Of course he did take it and in-fact he was arrested in 1991 as well for possession of cocaine.
    He was rightfully given the punishment, no doubt.


    But I feel a lot of players have gotten away with it.
    Reading through Ruy Castro's biography of the legendary Garrincha there are more than direct references to "tablets" given to players before the game. if I remember correct.
    And there are accounts of match-fixing as well.

    Another instance is that it is very well known that Christian Vieri used to snuff.
    And there are lot more examples.


    Will all these players also be branded as drug cheats ?.

    The game of football is not thankfully athletic, as Maradona displayed with that second goal against England it is lot more artistic. Drugs dont help there.

    Look, I am not comparing or flaming countries/players. Just feel that one player is being tainted and his achievements degraded because of his dark-side, which should rightfully be criticized. But not at the expense of taking away his achievements.

  • Comment number 92.

    Tim, with some people there's no point trying to clarify your opinion.

    Many football fans see things only in black and white. My team, your team, my country, other countries. Thats part of the tribalism of the game.

    Explaining the complexities of human nature and the concept of cheating within football is a pointless exercise. This blog will be read mainly by an Anglo-Saxon audience. And that Anglo-Saxon audience will always admire honest endeavour over silky skills and 'cunning'. Cheating will always be more acceptable if it's done in a 'manly' way - through aggression- rather than mental cunning.

    British football fans will always excuse a player who goes around kicking and elbowing while condemning simulation or wind-up tactics in all their forms. It's the way we are. English fans will also be particularly one-eyed about the national team, as there seems to be this feeling that we're owed something since 1966.

  • Comment number 93.

    Good article.
    There is no doubt that foreign players do dive more and are more spectacular about it but lets not kid ourselves into thinking we dont do it.
    Franny Lee has openly admitted he used to take the ball past defenders in the box and fall over with the slighest contact or none at all to win penalties. This was the 60's bear in mind many years before the so called foriengers came and "ruined" our league with their diving.
    Then again its not helped by so called experts like the perposterously smug Gareth Crooks who claimed quite grandly on match of the day a couple of yeras ago after a blatant Wright-Phipps dive that got somone sent of that he couldnt have dived because he was English.
    There is no doubt maradona's handball was a shocking bit of cheating but what on Earth was the ref doing that day. I was 8 when that match was on and even is aw it was handball. Also had he done it against say Germany would we be calling it daring improvisation?

  • Comment number 94.

    Post 38 by "hendero" referred to cheating by Goalkeepers (and other players) at Penalty Kicks Law 14.
    As a retired Canadian National Referee, and at all World Cups, I have observed the mis-administration of 90% of these kicks by Officials. Keepers do come off the goal-line, and players do enter the Penalty Area, before the ball is struck. Most Senior Referees give the kicker "one bite at the cherry", and ignore all other infringements.
    During an International Referee Seminar in Vancouver, British Columbia, I asked "Guest of Honour" Sepp Blatter FIFA President to comment
    He said "I cannot be held responsible for the failure of Referees to administer the Laws correctly". No discussion !
    Blatter and the hierarchy may therefore be complicit about cheating in the "Beautiful Game"?
    A most penetrating article by Tim Vickery

  • Comment number 95.

    I've always thought of Maradona as a sad case. Pele isn't remembered for cheating, despite what some Brazilian officials might have to say. He's remembered most of all for the absolute brilliance of his football, THAT pass to Carlos Alberto in particular.

    I lived in Mexico for well on 10 years, and what Maradona (and Argentinians in general) are famed for is not only that they cheat, but that they take pride in cheating. This coming from a country in America.

    If Maradona was confident about his greatness, he wouldn't have felt the need to cheat. That he did, and on such big a stage, and with no remorse, somewhat tarnished whatever legacy he might have left behind.

    That and the fact that he felt the need to use cocaine, and relapse after he was given another chance, lead me to place him firmly in the "pity" column, as opposed to the "greatness" one.

  • Comment number 96.

    A lot of you are missing the point:

    IT IS NOT OKAY TO CHEAT!

    It doesn't matter if you are Maradonut, Martin Peters, Franny Lee, Jurgen Klinsmann, Cristiano Ronaldo, Drogba, Robbie Savage, L**ds or whoever.

    It's about time someone took a hard stance on this. I only have to see school kids feigning injury to see how big the problem has become

  • Comment number 97.

    #91: I have to ask, do you know anything about the kind of drug Maradona was found guilty of taking in 1994? Without it the man would barely have been able to step sideways, never mind play a full 90 minutes of intense international football in the heat and humidity of the United States. Football, is as much about cardio-vascular endurance and maintaining this endurance in order to keep one's skills at their optimum throughout playing time. What happens when a person tires? His awareness, his ability to complete tasks and his body's will to perform wanes; taking drugs that aid this fatigue index helps one maintain the skills required to create "art" in an artificial manner, ergo, cheating.

    I still find it hard to believe that people will defend drug use in football simply because the components of fitness a player needs differ to those with the stigmatised with incessant drug use. It's weak and ill-judged. Just as bringing up other players rumoured drug use is - Maradona is a proven drug cheat, the players of which you're trying to hold him up against are not. Again, therein lies the difference.

  • Comment number 98.

    The weight loss drug thing in 94 makes me very sad - especially as he was playing so well.

    It would have been better if he hadn't played that World Cup - but his country came calling and he couldn't find it in himself to say no. Say what you like about him he was always a team player, his loyalty was to his team-mates and all he wanted was for the team to win. it's almost impossible to find someone who played with Maradona who doesn't feel real warmth towards him for this - which is not always true in the case of Pele, for example.

    I think that the tragedy of 94 is that he was a human being trying to live up to the demands from his countrymen that he be a god once more. So with his own medical staff - who should surely have known better - he took a short cut to get his weight down.

    It was wrong, he was found out and slung out. But let's put it in context - the drug coctail he took gave him a showcase to display his skills. There has yet to be a drug invented that can help somone trap a ball or give a pass or read a game the way that Maradona could.

    I don't think it's comparable to all those athletes - Ben Johnson, etc, where the drug is the performance.

  • Comment number 99.

    i remember the first time seeing maradona on the telly when england played argentina at wembley in 1980. england won 3-1 then but he made one or two brillaint runs that would become his trademark.

    but if ever a player was "kicked off the park" it was maradona in the 1982 world cup in spain. the treatment dished out to him by the italians and brazilians was shocking, no wonder he evntually snapped and got himself sent off.

    then there was the foul which almost ended his career in 84 (i think) when he was playing for barca.

    i know i called him a dirty cheat in 86 but that was just emotion, afterwards i realised he did what any pro would have done - even gary lineker admitted he'd have handled that second chance into the net if he thought he'd have got away with it.

    re: martin peters - alan shearer said the same with his outrageous dive when england lost to romania in euro 2000. he threw himself on the ground in the last minute then dressed it up as "you do anything for your country when you're desperate". no better than maradona then.

    no, good luck to him. and hopefully we'll beat argentina in the final of the world cup in south africa - with a last-minute handball!

  • Comment number 100.

    All your article does is point out the need for a "Third Umpire" and for an ENFORCEMENT of the rules. Cheating by anyone is cheating!
    If we really are going down the South American road of "all's fair in love, war and football" then you should give it up.
    If you believe that Peter's effort and admission justifies Maradona's, you are wrong!!
    Both should have been dealt with severely as Kay and Swann were in the match fixing of the 50's/60's.
    Sending people off for months without pay will get their attention and perhaps return us to better, fairer days!!

 

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