The name Ali Bennaceur doesn’t mean much to most casual soccer fans. But it was because of this man that one of soccer’s most memorable chapters was written. This weekend, Diego Maradona was in Tunisia, and he took the opportunity to reunite with the man partially responsible for turning him from a soccer player into a legend.
Ali Bennaceur was the Tunisian ref during the 1986 World Cup Quarterfinal game between Argentina and England. He was the one who didn’t see Maradona lightly raise his hand, which helped him put the ball over England’s goalie for a score of 1-0, a move that was later dubbed the Hand of God goal. Later, at the same match, Maradona scored what is considered the best goal of World Cup history, when El D10S dribbled past five rival players to put the score at 2-0.
After Bennaceur’s “little” mistake, Argentina was able to win their second World Cup and Maradona was raised to santo levels in the eyes of his people.
During their reunion, almost 30 years after that memorable game, Maradona gave Ali a kiss on the cheek and a signed Argentina jersey, while Ali gave him a picture of that game, which hung in his home.
Maradona’s dedication on the shirt reads: “For Ali, my eternal friend.”