Saturday 19 October 2019

Hand of God fails to come to the rescue for plucky Argentina

Unlike Maradona in 1986, however, Nicolas Sanchez couldn’t do it all by himself
Unlike Maradona in 1986, however, Nicolas Sanchez couldn’t do it all by himself

Conor McNamara

The Hand of God doesn't press buttons to call a lift. It has people to do that for it.

Diego Armando Maradona was quickly shuffled up to his corporate box at Twickenham on Sunday just as I was waiting in the same foyer.

He is shorter than you'd imagine. His head seems too big for the rest of his body. But you'd recognise him straight away.

I had a Maradona jersey when I was nine years old. It wasn't the 'real' one. It was the O'Neill's imitation version, with No 10 on the back and Maradona's name across the shoulders. In those days schoolboys accepted as indisputable fact that you played better with those Argentina white socks on. You just did.

There he was: Head to toe in black and white polyester, a walking billboard for a sports clothing manufacturer.

The increased physicality of the game has become a huge talking point during this Rugby World Cup. Heavier collisions are causing injury lists that are longer than ever before.

To be fair to Maradona, he suffered more than his fair share of sporting physical abuse. Referees protect footballers nowadays but back in the eighties and nineties it used to be a different story.

During the 1982 FIFA World Cup an Italian defender, ironically named Claudio Gentile, booted Maradona up and down the pitch - 23 fouls in one game - the most in a World Cup game since such figures have been recorded.

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During Sunday's semi-final the TV director couldn't resist a regular El Diego update.

Wrapped in the Argentina flag, you could tell he was a bit cooped-up for his own liking. Maradona looked like a guy who needed more space to twirl his arms and play the cheerleader.

He did his best, beating his chest and chanting Olé Olé Olé, at one stage necking a pint for the cameras.

Down on the pitch, all 15 of Los Pumas' points came from a modern day Argentinian No 10. Unlike Maradona in 1986, however, Nicolas Sanchez couldn't do it all by himself.

Diego clasped hands in prayer, closed his eyes, face to the heavens, but there was no help this time from the 'Mano De Dios'.

Conor McNamara is a TV3 commentator at the Rugby World Cup

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