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SPORTS | 04-05-2022 12:48

Maradona's 'Hand of God' shirt sells for US$9 million at auction

Shirt that Maradona wore while scoring twice against England at 1986 World Cup sells at auction for £7.1 million – a record for any item of sports memorabilia.

The shirt that Diego Maradona wore while scoring twice against England in the 1986 World Cup – including the infamous "hand of God" goal – has sold at auction for US$9.3 million (£7.1 million) – a record for any item of sports memorabilia.

Seven bidders vied for the garment in an auction that began April 20 and ended Wednesday morning, auctioner Sotheby's said.

A flurry of late bids took the price to its high level, with the shirt reportedly purchased by a group of bidders from the Middle East.

"This historic shirt is a tangible reminder of an important moment not only in the history of sports, but in the history of the 20th century," Brahm Wachter, Sotheby's head of streetwear and modern collectibles, said in a statement after the sale. 

"This is arguably the most coveted football shirt to ever come to auction, and so it is fitting that it now holds the auction record for any object of its kind," he said.

Among those who lost out, according to ITV news reporter Chloe Keedy, was an Argentine delegation that offered £5.5 million for the shirt and wanted to repatriate it to Maradona's country.

The group was headed by Marcelo Ordas, the owner of the Legends Collection, a firm that brings together the largest private collection of used match-worn shirts in the world.

Ordas, who claimed that Barcelona defender Gerard Piqué formed part of his group of bidders, later confirmed to La Nación+ television that his hopes of acquiring the shirt had failed.

"We thought we could repatriate this relic to share it with all Argentines," he said. "An offer from the Middle East came at the last minute and took away our illusion."

 

The man with Maradona's shirt

The Argentine football legend's shirt had been owned by opposing midfielder Steve Hodge, who swapped his jersey with Maradona after England lost 2-1.

Hodge, whose autobiography is titled The Man with Maradona's Shirt, has for the past 20 years loaned the shirt to be on public display at the National Football Museum in Manchester.

The quarter-final showdown became etched in football lore for Maradona's two goals – one notorious and one sublime – in Mexico City's seething Aztec Stadium.

The first came shortly after half-time when Hodge, on the edge of the England penalty area, intercepted a pass and flicked the ball back towards goal.

Argentina's number 10, running into the box, rose with England's goalkeeper Peter Shilton and punched the ball into the net. He later said the goal had been scored "a little with the head of Maradona, a little with the hand of God."

Soon after, the Albiceleste star left five English defenders in his wake before gliding past Shilton and slotting home for a strike that was voted "Goal of the Century" in a 2002 FIFA poll.

Argentina went on to win the final and Maradona, who died from a heart attack in 2020, became worshipped in his home country.

 

Authenticity dispute

Maradona's daughter cast doubt on the sale earlier this month when she claimed that the shirt put up for auction had been the one her father wore in the goal-less first half, not the second when he scored his two goals. 

"This former player thinks he has my dad's second-half jersey, but it's a mix-up. He has the one from the first half," his daughter Dalma said. 

Sotheby's insisted they had the right shirt, though. 

A Sotheby's spokeswoman told AFP: "There was indeed a different shirt worn by Maradona in the first half, but there are clear differences between that and what was worn during the goals. And so, prior to putting this shirt for sale, we did extensive diligence and scientific research on the item to make sure it was the shirt worn by Maradona in the second half for the two goals."

The photomatching process had involved matching the shirt "to both goals examining unique details on various elements of the item, including the patch, stripes, and numbering."

It added that Maradona himself had acknowledged the provenance of the shirt himself, in his book Touched by God, and he recalls giving it to Hodge at the end of the match.

The previous record for a game-worn shirt from any sport was US$5.6 million, set in 2019 for a jersey Babe Ruth wore while on the New York Yankees.

Until now the auction record for any sports memorabilia was the original autograph manuscript of the Olympic Manifesto from 1892, which sold at Sotheby’s for US$8.8 million in December 2019.

 

– TIMES/AFP

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