‘What an honour for me’ – Former PGMOL chief, Keith Hackett, recalls the day he reffed Diego Maradona

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The passing of Diego Maradona last week has seen an outpouring of grief throughout the world of football.

One of the best to have ever played the game, the Argentinian was revered worldwide, not just in his home country.

All of his former clubs have paid their own personal tribute since his death, as have a number of his former team-mates.

Keith Hackett, a former FIFA referee and former head of the PGMOL, has paid his own personal tribute, recalling the day he refereed Maradona.

It came in August 1987, at Wembley, just a year after the diminutive No.10 had virtually single-handedly won the World Cup for Argentina, and the player was still in his pomp.

“Like many people I had watched Maradona in the 86 World Cup and was disappointed that the referee had failed to detect the deliberate handball,” Hackett told CaughtOffside.

“I sat unhappy for a while then witnessed the rightly titled ‘Goal of the Century.’ It was a piece magic to pick the ball up in his own half and run at speed past five England players to score a wonder goal.

“It made me recall my participation in the 100th FA Cup final where Ricky Villa, a fellow Argentinian, had scored one of the best goals witnessed at Wembley.

“I was delighted to have been appointed to referee the Football League Centenary celebration game, and I met Maradona at the head of the Wembley tunnel.

“He shook my hand and insisted that a photograph should be taken. He blurted out “Villa, Villa.”

“I was amazed that he had linked me to the final or by some chance had done his homework.

“The next time we met was when I blew my whistle for the two captains to take part in the toss of the coin.

“Bryan Robson, captain of the Football League Representative team and Maradona, captain of the Rest of the World team.

“He was a legend and I was surprised how small and stocky he was. In that game every time he touched the ball there was a mixed reception, but he had been paid a big fee to take part and wanted to entertain.

“When you meet legends in any sport you hope that they will not let you down, and I wanted him to live up to the picture that I had painted.

“What an honour for me to share the same pitch has the great Maradona. RIP – He was the greatest player the world has ever seen.”

The teams that day were:

Football League XI: Peter Shilton (Derby County), Richard Gough (Tottenham), Kenny Sansom (Arsenal), John McClelland (Watford), Paul McGrath (Manchester United), Liam Brady (West Ham), Bryan Robson (Manchester United), Neil Webb (Nottingham Forest), Clive Allen (Tottenham), Peter Beardsley (Liverpool), Chris Waddle (Tottenham). Substitutes: Steve Ogrizovic (Coventry), Steve Clarke (Chelsea), Pat Nevin (Everton), Osvaldo Ardiles (QPR), Norman Whiteside (Manchester United), Alan Smith (Arsenal). Manager: Bobby Robson.

Though his chequered lifestyle off of the pitch may taint his legacy for some, Maradona hit the heights that many players can only dream of.

It’s that, and nothing else, that he should be remembered for.


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