Pope Francis, Diego Maradona and the ‘Hand of God’


BUENOS AIRES -- The award for cleverest new-pope headline probably goes to Britain’s Daily Mirror tabloid, which featured a front-page photograph Thursday of Pope Francis raising his right hand from the Vatican balcony. The headline: “The New Hand of God.”

Non-British readers might find the wording uninspiring, possibly a tad impudent. But Britons and Argentines, and dedicated soccer fans, should get the point.

A groan from London, a grin from Buenos Aires.

A link to the Daily Mirror’s front page made the rounds on Twitter feeds in the Argentine capital.


Video: Maradona’s ‘hand of God’ goal

The giveaway about the headline’s point of reference is a small photo, strategically placed in a circular inset near the new pope’s right hand, depicting a pair of leaping players on a soccer field. No, this is not the Argentine Jesuit, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, in his sporting youth back on the sandlots of Buenos Aires.

The photo records an infamous moment during the 1986 World Cup quarter final in Mexico City, England versus Argentina.

The image shows the instant when Diego Armando Maradona, the gifted and cheeky Argentine soccer icon, seems to punch the ball away from the outstretched hands of England’s out-witted goal-keeper.

Of course, it is a foul in soccer for anyone other than the goalkeeper to touch the ball with his or her hands. But officials somehow missed Maradona’s hand ball, an oversight of epic proportions.

Argentina ultimately won the match, 2-1, eliminating England and paving the way for the nation’s second World Cup title.


Later, the mischievous Maradona would say the “the hand of God” had intervened.

It remains one of the most infamous goals in the long history of the World Cup. The “hand of God” stands as an instantly recognizable catch phrase to millions on at least two continents.

Accompanying the “New Hand of God” story on the Daily Mirror’s front page were several headlines for more standard tabloid fare.

There was a promo for horse races at the Cheltenham course (including the chance of a free bet), and an account of new allegations of sexual misconduct by a former BBC radio host once known as “the Hairy Cornflake.” The ex-presenter denied any wrongdoing and told reporters: “My conscience is clear.”


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Special correspondent D’Alessandro reported from Buenos Aires. Times staff writer McDonnell, a former Buenos Aires bureau chief, reported from Beirut.