Now 76, retired Tunisian referee, Ali Bin Nasser, is famously remembered for officiating the historic and controversial 1986 FIFA World Cup quarter-final match between Argentina and England.
The match, which ended 2-1 in favor of Argentina, with both goals scored by none other than Diego Maradona, is undoubtedly one of the most talked about football games particularly due to the manner by which the goals were scored.
Famously dubbed the “Hand of God” goal, Maradona sneakily scored his first goal with his hand, and Bin Nasser let it stand despite appeals from the English players. The second goal, which was voted as the “goal of the century” in 2002, was a full display of Maradona’s sheer brilliance behind the ball, as he dribbled past several players from his own half.
Maradona passed away after suffering a heart attack at his Tigre residence on November 25. The 60-year-old World Cup winner’s passing followed a successful surgery he had earlier in November to remove a blood clot on his brain.
In an interview with BBC, Bin Nasser reflected on that match, saying he was left with no resort but to let the first goal stand. He also said Maradona gifted him a signed shirt when he visited the North African country in 2015.
Asked about the second goal, Bin Nasser said he made the right decision to play advantage and allow the game to proceed despite Maradona being fouled while he was dribbling past the English players. He elaborated:
He took off from midfield, and I was shadowing him closely. When you’re refereeing someone like Maradona, you can’t take your eyes off them.
They tried to take him down on three occasions, but his desire for victory kept pushing him forward.
Every time I would shout ‘advantage’ until he reached the box.
I was watching from outside the box, wondering how this player shook off three defenders, and sprinted for nearly 50 metres. I thought ‘the defenders will try to take him down now’. I was expecting that to happen and was ready to whistle for a penalty.
To my surprise, he dribbled past another defender and the goalkeeper [Peter Shilton] to score what would become ‘the goal of the century’.
I’m proud and honoured as a person and as a referee for having played a role in that historical achievement.
Had I whistled [for] a foul in any of the first three contacts, we wouldn’t have witnessed something that magnificent. That advantage I gave is one my proudest achievements.
Despite the controversy over the first goal, Bin Nasser told BBC officiating that match was the “highlight” of his career.
“I remember it vividly,” he said. “The English defender [Steve Hodge] had the ball, sent it back and Maradona was in the air with Peter Shilton, and they were both facing away from me.”
He added: “They were facing my assistant referee, the Bulgarian Bogdan Dochev. I was hesitant at first, I glanced over to Dochev, who was headed back to the centre of the pitch, confirming the goal. He didn’t signal for handball. The instructions Fifa gave us before the game were clear – if a colleague was in a better position than mine, I should respect his view.”