Despite Questions Around Authenticity, ‘Hand of God’ Shirt Sells for Record £7M

The shirt in which it’s believed Diego Maradona scored two of the most famous — or infamous, depending on who you root for — goals in FIFA World Cup history has sold at an online auction for a whopping £7,142,500 ($8.93 million US), making it the most expensive piece of sports memorabilia ever sold.

Luxury auction house Sotheby’s announced in early April that it would be selling Diego Maradona’s shirt from Argentina’s 1986 World Cup quarterfinal match against England — the match in which Maradona scored both the “Hand of God” goal and the “Goal of the Century.”

The sale started online on Wednesday, April 20, and concluded on Wednesday, May 4. After only one bid had been submitted in the first 13 days, but bidding heated up in the minutes before the lot closed. Sotheby’s had set the reserve price at £4 million, and had estimated on its website it would sell for between £4 million and £6 million.

Photos courtesy Sotheby’s

“This is arguably the most coveted football shirt to ever come to auction, and so it is fitting that it now holds the auction record for any object of its kind,” Brahm Wachter, Sotheby’s head of streetwear and modern collectables, told the BBC.

The identity of the buyer was not immediately known when the auction closed at 11:01 a.m. ET Wednesday.

The sale officially cements Maradona’s shirt as the most expensive piece of sports memorabilia ever, eclipsing an original Olympic manifesto handwritten by Pierre de Coubertin, which Sotheby’s sold in December 2019 for $8.8 million US.

It also set a record for the most expensive game-worn jersey, previously held by a New York Yankees jersey worn by Babe Ruth somewhere between 1928 and 1930, which sold at auction for $5.64 million US in June 2019.

Previously, the most expensive soccer jersey ever sold was Pele’s shirt from the 1970 World Cup final, which sold for £157,750 in January 2002 (about $222,400 US at the time).

Some doubts were cast on the authenticity of the shirt, though, in the days following the announcement of the sale in early April. Maradona’s daughter Dalma told media in Argentina that her father changed shirts at halftime of the game against England, and the shirt being sold was the one he wore in the first half — not the second half, when he scored both goals.

Sotheby’s was adamant, however, that the shirt they were selling was from the second half. They’d had an independent company photomatch the shirt they’re selling to images of Maradona in the second half of the game, and Maradona himself described giving the shirt in which he scored the goals to England midfielder Steve Hodge in a memoir published in 2016. Hodge had loaned the National Football Museum in Manchester in 2002, and Sotheby’s said its authenticity was never questioned while it was on display there.

Graphic courtesy Sotheby’s

Earlier this week, before the auction closed, the Argentine Football Association made a late appeal to Hodge to pull the shirt from the auction and sell it to them instead so they can put it in a Maradona museum in Buenos Aires. “It should be in Argentina in order all Argentines can enjoy it — and not for a millionaire to display it in his closet,” a member of the AFA told British media outlet The Sun.