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Monday, Aug 26, 2019

‘Diego Maradona was my gravedigger’ - linesman who saw ‘Hand of God’ goal

Bogdan Dochev died last year but not before confirming that he had seen Diego Maradona’s hand touching the ball in the 1986 FIFA World Cup quarter-final between England and Argentina.

football Updated: May 09, 2018 12:35 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Diego Maradona outjumps England goalkeeper Peter Shilton to score with his 'Hand of God' goal.
Diego Maradona outjumps England goalkeeper Peter Shilton to score with his 'Hand of God' goal. (Getty Images)

Life was never the same for Bulgarian linesman Bogdan Dochev after the 1986 World Cup quarterfinal match between Argentina and England, in which Diego Maradona’s famous ‘Hand of God’ goal was allowed by the referee despite having spotted it.

Dochev, capped twice by Bulgaria, died last year but not before confirming that he had seen the Argentine football legend’s hand touching the ball in that remarkable moment in the 1986 World Cup quarterfinal.

The game was held a mere four years after the Falklands War between the South American country and UK, thus adding some political tension to the encounter. Maradona even gleefully revealed in his autobiography that he felt like he “robbed the British a little” with that goal.

An embarrassing communication error between Dochev and Bin Nasser, the match referee from Tunisia, allowed the goal in favour of Argentina who went on to win the knockout clash by a margin of 2-1.

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Dochev’s wife has revealed that he was ‘tormented’ by the incident, and that they lost all friends and were forced to lead a reclusive life.

Dochev died in Bulgaria last year at the age of 80, but in 2014, he had admitted to spotting Maradona punch the ball past England captain and goalkeeper Peter Shilton for Argentina’s first goal.

Maradona had scored twice inside five minutes to give Argentina a 2-1 win over England and they went on to win the World Cup, beating West Germany in the final.

‘Kick in the teeth’

TV images had showed match referee Nasser running slowly towards the linesman Dochev to check what had happened exactly while Maradona’s hand had touched the ball.

On his part, neither did Dochev wave the flag nor did he make any communication and stood still.

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Dochev’s widow, Emily, has now revealed that it was Nasser who had told her husband that he would be taking all on-field calls. “The referee said ‘You don’t have to do any work — it will be all my calls’,” she said.

“I’ll never forgive that referee and I’ll never forgive Diego Maradona. After the World Cup our life was ruined. Bogdan withdrew into himself and friends never said hello to me again. It wasn’t a Hand of God for us, it was a kick in the teeth,” Emily was quoted as saying by The Sun.

‘We had no communication’

Before his death, Dochev had admitted seeing Maradona’s error but poor communication between him and the referee led them to allow the goal.

“I saw the Argentinian played with hand. During those times FIFA’s rules allowed to the assistant referee to give his opinion only if asked by the referee. The referee admitted the goal even before taking a look at me to check the situation. We never had a communication — Bin Nasser knew only his native language,” Dochev had said.

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On his part, Nasser had a different version. “I was waiting for Dochev to give me a hint of what exactly happened but he didn’t signal for a 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,” he said.

Dochev went on to blame the Argentinian football legend for ruining his life and his career. He was so dismayed by the incident that Dochev even wrote the words ‘Maradona is my gravedigger’ behind a photograph of the player.

“Diego Maradona ruined my life. He is a brilliant footballer but a small man. He is low in height and as a person too,” Dochev said.

First Published: May 09, 2018 12:20 IST

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