Maradona’s victory over ‘Thatcher’s England’ sealed Argentina’s ‘resurrection’, says Emmanuel Macron
President Emmanuel Macron of France has hailed Diego Maradona’s World Cup victory over “Thatcher’s England”, which he said heralded Argentina’s “resurrection” after its defeat in the Falklands War.
In an official tribute to the football legend, who died on Wednesday, the Elysée said Maradona’s notorious “Hand of God” goal and a second virtuoso strike sealed “the most geopolitical match in football history”, namely Argentina’s 2-1 win over England in the 1986 World Cup.
The quarter-final victory came just four years after Thatcher’s victory in the Falklands War.
The diminutive star scored the first goal illegally with his fist – later saying he had been helped by the hand of the Almighty – before his now mythical dribble just moments later ended in a second goal later ranked the greatest of the century.
In a 600-word missive, Mr Macron waxed lyrical about the player whose Panini sticker he was desperate to add to his album aged eight.
“The hand of God placed a football genius on Earth,” he wrote.
“It has just taken it from us, with an unforeseen dribble that has deceived all our defences,” the tribute goes on.
Mr Macron said the tears shed by “millions of orphans" left no doubt that Maradona was “the greatest footballer of all time”, controversially even better than home-grown hero Zinedine Zidane.
“A dancer in football studs, not so much an athlete as an artist, he embodied the magic of the game,” he went on.
The tribute then turned to Maradona’s fabled foul play that helped his team beat England, saying it changed Argentina’s fortunes after four years in the doldrums.
“It fell to him to write the history of a country scarred by dictatorship and a military defeat. This resurrection took place in 1986 in the most geopolitical match in the history of football – a World Cup quarterfinal against the England of Margaret Thatcher,” he wrote.
Argentina's Diego Maradona was both 'god and devil" in his team's 1986 World Cup win against England, said French president Emmanuel Macron
Credit: Bob Thomas Sports Photography
“On June 22, 1986, in Mexico City, he scored his first goal with God as his teammate,” he went on.
“The miracle was disputed but the referee saw nothing: Maradona’s bluff won him the point. What followed was ‘the goal of the century’, which rolled football’s greatest dribblers – Garrincha, Kopa, Pelé into one move.
“Over 50 metres, in a mind-blowing run, he got past half of the England team, dribbled round Shilton, the goalkeeper, before propelling the ball into the net and the Albiceleste [Argentina’s nickname] into the World Cup final four.”
“In the same match, both god and devil, he scored the two most famous goals in football history. There was a King Pele, now there is a God Diego."
Argentina went on to win the World Cup against West Germany.
In amongst the high-flying praise, Mr Macron mocked Maradona’s visits to South American revolutionaries Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez as tasting “like bitter defeat”.
“It was on the pitches that Maradona led the revolution,” the tribute says.
"To all those who saved their pocket money to finally complete the Panini Mexico 1986 album with his sticker, to all those who tried to negotiate with their partner to christen their son Diego, to his Argentinian compatriots, to the Neapolitans who drew frescoes worthy of Diego Riveira in his effigy, to all football lovers, the President of the Republic sends his heartfelt condolences.”
The eulogy ends with the words “Diego queda” – Diego remains.