Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ shirt to be auctioned for up to an estimated £6mn

The shirt worn by football superstar Diego Maradona in the 1986 “Hand of God” match against England is to go up for auction with an estimated value of up to £6mn. 

The late Argentina captain’s shirt, which has been on public view at the National Football Museum in Manchester for 18 years, is being sold by Steve Hodge, the England midfielder in the World Cup game who swapped shirts with Maradona after the final whistle.

The quarter-final match was one of the most controversial in the annals of the World Cup after Maradona scored with a handball that went unseen by the officials. He then scored a spectacular second goal, securing a 2-1 win for Argentina. The team went on to win the World Cup.

Interviewed later, he was reported as saying his first goal was made “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God”. 

The game had been filled with tension and wider symbolism, coming only four years after the two nations had been at war over the Falkland Islands. In a 2019 documentary, Maradona described the goal as “revenge” for the British victory in the south Atlantic.

“It was one of those moments in history when sports can transcend the boundaries of just a game,” said Brahm Wachter, head of streetwear and modern collectibles at Sotheby’s, which is holding the auction.

If the shirt is bought by a collector rather than an institution such as a museum, it may disappear from public view.

The National Football Museum thanked Hodge for the long-term loan. It is not expected to bid for the shirt, given the level of anticipated interest, but said it would “love to have it back on display at the museum if the successful buyer should need a safe keeper”.

It will be sold in an online auction at Sotheby’s that runs from April 20 to May 4. If a buyer meets the auction house’s estimate of between £4mn and £6mn, together with the buyer’s premium, it would break the record paid for any sports item worn or used in a game. The current record is a jersey belonging to baseball player Babe Ruth dating from 1928-30, which sold for $5.64mn (£4.44mn at the time), including the buyer’s premium, in June 2019.

The Argentina shirts were not the official strip brought for the match. The team coach had been fretting about the cotton tops in the searing heat and humidity of Mexico City, and three days before the match dispatched a staff member to scour the capital’s shops for lighter garments. The team badge was stitched on and players’ numbers hurriedly ironed on to the backs shortly before the game.

Hodge said in a statement: “It was an absolute privilege to have played against one of the greatest and most magnificent football players of all time. It has also been a pleasure to share it with the public over the last 20 years at the National Football Museum.”