Tunisian referee Ali Bin Nasser says he is auctioning the football which Diego Maradona scored two of the most famous goals in World Cup history, in order to not only donate to charity but also set up his family for life.
The Adidas Azteca ball is set to be sold on 16 November by Bin Nasser, who officiated the match in the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City 36 years ago.
“That ball is part of football history and it is time to share it with the world,” he told the BBC World Service.
Maradona netted his controversial ‘Hand of God’ goal to put Argentina ahead in the unforgettable clash, before adding a sensational solo effort which became known as the ‘goal of the century’.
Now 78, Nasser hopes the proceeds from its sale will provide a better life for his family as well as fund charitable work in his native Tunisia.
“I was a referee from 1966 to 1991 and an international referee from 1975 to 1991. My career speaks for itself and I don’t have to keep talking about it,” he said.
“The money is going to honour my career, and with that money I’m going make sure my family is set and I’m going do a lot of charity with it.
“That is a gift to me from God after many, many years as a referee.”
The ball was used for the full 90 minutes of the match, which remains one of the most defining and controversial contests in World Cup history.
Maradona broke the deadlock in the 51st minute by punching the ball past England goalkeeper Peter Shilton, with the then-Napoli player later describing it as being scored “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God”.
Bin Nasser did not spot the handball and allowed the goal to stand, despite protests from England players.
Bin Nasser ‘followed Fifa instructions’
Bin Nasser picked up the famous ball at full-time as the sport’s world governing body Fifa, which organises the World Cup, then allowed its officials to grab a keepsake from matches they officiated.
“When we started that tournament, Fifa instructed every referee that we could keep the ball as a memory of a game,” he said.
“I was lucky to do two games – one in the group stage, Poland versus Portugal, and this quarter-final match between England and Argentina.”
Argentina eventually went on to win the World Cup in Mexico and Bin Nasser says officiating their quarter-final, played in front of nearly 115,000 fans, was the highlight of his career.
Frequently asked about the legitimacy of the ‘Hand of God’ goal, Bin Nasser says he only has mild regrets about it since he believes he correctly fulfilled his job.
“I didn’t have a clear view because I could see the back of Maradona and the goalkeeper,” he added.
“Just before the World Cup, Fifa was very, very clear about the instructions; if you don’t have a clear view of what happened, you’re going to have to take your colleague’s, or linesmen’s, opinion on the goal.
“Maradona received the ball from an England player, so we’re not talking about offside. We’re talking about if he scored with his hand or with his head.
“My instincts were to listen to the Fifa instructions. I looked at my colleague [the Bulgarian Bogdan Dochev] and he had a better view than me. I went to the middle of the field, running backwards, looking at my colleague to make sure there was no handball.
“I had doubts, but I didn’t see it. It was on my colleague to make that decision. Once he met me in the middle of the field, I had no option but to say it was a goal.”
Dochev, who died in 2017 aged 80, would later say that Fifa “did not allow assistants to discuss decisions with the referee”.
“If Fifa had put a referee from Europe in charge of such an important game, the first goal of Maradona would have been disallowed,” the Bulgarian insisted.
However, Bin Nasser says the sportsmanship shown by the England players was “beautiful” and he wished that things were different.
“To [Gary] Lineker, I would like to say hello to him and all the English players at that game because they played fair,” the north African explained.
“You have to understand that mistakes happen in football. We didn’t have VAR (Video Assistant Referee) back then.
“After the game, the England head coach (Bobby Robson) said in an interview: ‘The referee did his job as he was instructed by Fifa, but the linesman was very irresponsible’.
“The fans have every right to be mad. They were there to support the team, but mistakes happen. By any means, I am not responsible for that mistake.
“I just wish that my colleague saw the handball so we wouldn’t have to go through all of what we had to go through during and after the game.”
The football from the 1986 match is not the only piece of Maradona memorabilia to be auctioned for big money.
The famous footballer’s shirt worn during the quarter-final sold in May for £7.1 million, which was a new world record for a sporting item.
Bin Nasser’s shirt from the England-Argentina match, in addition to a signed shirt he later received from Maradona, will also be available at the auction on 16 November in London.
Maradona travelled to Tunisia in 2015 and visited Bin Nasser at his home, giving the referee a shirt with the message ‘Para Ali Mi Amigo Eterna (To Ali, my eternal friend)’.