LONDON (AP) The ball punched in by Diego Maradona for his ''Hand of God'' goal at the 1986 World Cup has been sold at auction for nearly $2.4 million by the referee who missed soccer's most famous handball.
Ali Bin Nasser, the Tunisian former match official who refereed the quarterfinal game between Argentina and England in Mexico, owned the 36-year-old Adidas ball that was sold at Graham Budd Auctions in London for 2 million pounds ($2.37 million) on Wednesday.
Bin Nasser said before the auction he felt it was the right time to share the item with the world and expressed hope the buyer would put it on public display.
The Maradona goal that gave Argentina a 1-0 lead in that match against England - but should not have been allowed - has become part of soccer legend.
Maradona jumped as if to head the ball but instead punched it past England goalkeeper Peter Shilton. Maradona quipped afterward that it was scored ''a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God,'' leading to its iconic name.
Speaking ahead of the auction, Bin Nasser said: ''I couldn't see the incident clearly. The two players, Shilton and Maradona, were facing me from behind.
''As per FIFA's instructions issued before the tournament, I looked to my linesman for confirmation of the validity of the goal - he made his way back to the halfway line indicating he was satisfied that the goal should stand. At the end of the match, the England head coach Bobby Robson said to me, `You did a good job, but the linesman was irresponsible.'''
Maradona scored a brilliant second goal against England only four minutes later with the same ball - the only one used in the quarterfinal. He ran nearly 70 meters from his own half and weaved his way past half the England team before slipping the ball past Shilton to make it 2-0. That goal was voted the World Cup Goal of the Century in 2002.
Argentina won the game 2-1 and went on to lift the World Cup. Maradona died in 2020 at the age of 60. The upcoming World Cup in Qatar, which starts Sunday, will be the first since Maradona's death.
The jersey worn by Maradona against England was sold in May for $9.3 million, at the time the highest price paid at auction for a piece of sports memorabilia. That was beaten by a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle baseball card, which went for $12.6 million in New York in August.
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