Former England striker, Garry Lineker who played in the famous 1986 World Cup match in which Diego Maradona described the first of his two goals as coming from the ‘Hand of God’ has declared that he hoped the fallen Argentine legend finds ‘comfort in the hands of God.”
His satire-like tribute was not well received as critics felt it was offensive. ‘Hopefully he’ll finally find some comfort in the hands of God’ was the tweet he put up.
But some of Lineker’s Twitter followers said it was ‘not the time’ for the former England footballer to make the reference, which was in relation to the ‘Hand of God’ goal the Argentinian legend scored at the 1986 World Cup.
Lineker, who now presents the BBC’s Match of the Day and also scored in the same quarter-final match in Mexico that featured the infamous goal, tweeted today: ‘Reports from Argentina that Diego Armando Maradona has died.
‘By some distance the best player of my generation and arguably the greatest of all time. After a blessed but troubled life, hopefully he’ll finally find some comfort in the hands of God. #RIPDiego.’
But the tweet did not go down well with everyone, and Brazilian journalist Eduardo Monsanto said: ‘Show some respect. Being an a**hole does not fit you, or so I thought.’ Lineker replied: ‘Sorry, where’s the disrespect?’
Monsanto replied: ‘Come on… we both know what you meant. There’s an entire country mourning the loss of their favourite son. This is no time for double meaning.’ Lineker hit back: ‘Your misunderstanding is complete.’
Another commented: ‘Not the time to make puns Gary.’ But Lineker said in response: ‘Don’t be ridiculous. It’s heartfelt.’
One journalist defended Lineker, saying: ‘I’ve seeing now someone dares to create a an argument. Do not care, you have been nothing less than poetic.’ Lineker replied: ‘Thank you. Can only imagine it’s a translation issue.’
The tweet had received 1,000 comments, 9,000 retweets and 72,000 likes within the first 40 minutes of being posted, with others saying Lineker’s words were just a ‘harmless, heartfelt pun’ and urged people to ‘move on’.
The pair have a history together after Lineker tracked the World Cup winner to Buenos Aires in 2006 for BBC documentary,’When Lineker met Maradona’.
Lineker, during his search for Maradona in his documentary ahead of the 2006 World Cup, was told the handball was ‘cunning’ by the man himself.
When they were first introduced for the programme, the Briton shook the Argentinian’s hand and asked him: ‘Which hand was it, this one?’ Maradona played along and lifted up his left hand, adding: ”No, it was this one!’
The Hand of God was one of the first questions most people asked Maradona in the years after it happened and he appeared to enjoy the controversy of it.
In 2019, he said: ‘I knew it was my hand. It wasn’t my plan but the action happened so fast that the linesman didn’t see me putting my hand in. The referee looked at me and he said: ”Goal”.’
He continued: ‘It was a nice feeling like some sort of symbolic revenge against the English.’
Just before his birthday this year, Maradona added: ‘I dream of being able to score another goal against England, this time with the right hand!’
The Argentina World Cup winner and the national team’s former manager had been in hospital in Buenos Aires after surgery to remove a blood clot on the brain earlier this month.
Maradona is widely regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all time and was the inspiration for Argentina’s World Cup success in Mexico in 1986.
He also led the country to the final of the 1990 tournament in Italy and managed them in South Africa in 2010.
Maradona’s successes made him a global star and a national hero in Argentina but his career was also blighted by controversies on and off the field.
His ‘Hand of God’ goal against England in the 1986 quarter-finals, when he pushed the ball into the net with his hand, earned him infamy – although he followed up by scoring the ‘goal of the century’, a remarkable solo effort, in the same game.
His international playing career ended in shame when he failed a drugs test at the 1994 World Cup in the United States and he was notorious for a wayward lifestyle.
He was also banned from football in 1991 after testing positive for cocaine while playing for Napoli. However, he remained a revered figure at the Italian club, where he won two Serie A titles.
He also played for Barcelona, Sevilla, Boca Juniors and Newell’s Old Boys and was most recently manager of Gimnasia y Esgrima in La Plata, Argentina.
It is understood UEFA will hold a minute’s silence at all of tonight’s Champions League matches in Maradona’s memory.