The ball that football holds (and sells) dear

Saying that former Tunisian World Cup referee Ali Bin Nasser was in the right place at the right time doing the right thing on Wednesday may irritate a lot of people, especially supporters of the England national football side. But Nasser, who officiated the World Cup quarterfinal match in Mexico City on June 22, 1986 – in which he was in the wrong place at the wrong time while Diego Maradona cheekily fisted the ball into the England net to score the first goal – has got it right this time. The ball used in that game, since 1986 in Nasser’s possession, went under the hammer in London for a charming £2 million (₹19.45 crore), fetching the old ref a tidy sum four days before the World Cup starts.

While the auction house, Graham Budd, had estimated the now-rather-deflated ball to be worth £2.5-3 million, the sacral object was bought ‘cheap’ by an unnamed buyer perhaps because it was sold as ‘The ‘Hand of God’ Football’. This tag underplayed the fact that this was the same orb El Diego put away four minutes after his first goal – after slicing through the field and a phalanx of defenders. Coming a few months after England midfielder Steve Hodge, with whom Maradona had exchanged jerseys after the 1986 game, sold the No 10 shirt for £7.1 million (₹75.79 crore), who says Diego was also not the greatest assist football has ever known?

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