Ali Bennaceur, the Tunisian referee who conceded the goal with the “hand of God”, returned to the courts this Saturday to referee and thus pay tribute to Diego Armando Maradona, whom he not only considers the best player in the world for his technique and character if not as “the eternal friend” who visited him at home to thank him for “the most famous mistake in the history of the world.”
At 77, and despite having undergone two heart operations, Benneceur took the whistle again and was received amid applause on the grounds of the “Agfa By Coerver” academy, champion of the youngest league in the Tunisian capital, where the first edition of the “Maradona Cup 2020” of children’s football was played, in honor of Pelusa and the man who did not see God extend his hand.
Organized by the Embassy of Argentina in Tunisia in collaboration with the Efe Agency, the game brought together dozens of people who enjoyed a joyful and disputed soccer day that intends to be repeated every year in honor of the Argentine ten.
“I was lucky enough to referee the best players in history, but none like Maradona. He was a very special person on the pitch,” Bennaceur explained to Efe before officiating the field draw, greeting the captains of both teams , pose for the photo and give the starting signal, as he did 34 years ago at the Azteca stadium in Mexico.
THE HAND OF GOD
Born in Tunisia in March 1944, Bennaceur was already a controversial referee in his country when FIFA chose him to referee the famous quarter-finals of the 1986 World Cup, which would go down in history for hosting on the same day the declared “goal of the century “and” the hand of God “, both starring a Maradona in the splendor of his controversial career.
“When he came to see me I told him that the World Cup had not been won by the Argentina team, it was won by Maradona”, He recalled this Saturday among dozens of fans, Tunisians and Argentines, who approached him to ask him to sign photos of that hot day in which Argentina felt that it was taking revenge for the close military defeat in the Falkland Islands.
Bennaceur has insisted for years that he did not see the controversial play of the goal with his fist “because both Maradona and Shilton (England goalkeeper) had their backs turned” and that he only did what FIFA had recommended in the course prior to the World Cup, “that we trust the opinion of the one who was better placed.”
That was not another, According to Bennaceur, that his Bulgarian lineman, Bogdan Dochev, who did not raise the flag to signal any infraction, for which the Tunisian conceded the goal between the protests of the English players and a Peter Shilton who did not give credit.
Years later, Dochev contradicted Bennaceur’s version and assured that FIFA prevented the assistants from discussing the decisions of the main referee.
The Bulgarian even hinted that the Tunisian lacked international experience, despite the fact that in previous years he had directed the final of the Africa Cup in both 1984 and 1986, two matches of the U20 World Cup and a previous meeting in the World Cup itself in Mexico. : the one that faced Poland and Portugal in the first phase, with the victory of the Poles with a goal from Smolarek (1-0).
THE VISIT OF MARADONA
On August 17, 2015 Bennaceur, who during the World Cup in Mexico acted as an assistant in three more games -among them the one that faced Spain with Denmark in the second round-, received a visit from the Argentine star at his home, who gave him a of his signed shirts and declared that the Tunisian was his “eternal friend”.
A visit that recalled this Saturday the guys from Coerver Agfa to whom he said that to be as great as Maradona you not only have to have the superb technique that “the fluff” displayed, but also have “an overwhelming personality”, something he said to miss Messi, Bennaceur said that after that hot afternoon in Mexico he refereed only one more match: in the 1988 African Cup.
“He led his team to victory, and the team gave him the ball. He dominated the whole field with his presence,” he told captains, Iago Martín and Hamza L, before handing them the cup in the presence of the Argentine ambassador. in Tunisia, Claudio Ronzacwaig who pledged to continue cooperating with the Tunisian authorities so that this is only the first of many editions of the “Maradona-Bennaceur Cup” in Tunisia.