Flashback 1986: Diego Maradona, American Coverboy

Argentina wins 1986 World Cup

Twenty-five years ago this week Diego Maradona earned his first, and only, place on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Maradona led Argentina to its second World Cup, defeating West Germany 3-2 in the 1986 final in Mexico City.

The cover story, of course, tried to put Maradona’s talent into terms the American sports fan could comprehend:

Imagine Wayne Gretzky or Larry Bird performing in a dominion of billions—not just millions—of fans, against a dizzying progression of defenses—zones, man-to-mans, traps—designed solely to stop him, running nonstop for two 45-minute periods with men kicking at his ankles and swiping at his knees, and you begin to appreciate the athletic genius of the 5’5″, 152-pound, 25-year-old striker named Maradona

Maradona’s most famous performance of the tournament against England in the quarterfinals, where he scored the infamous “hand of God” goal and a “goal for the Gods,” surprisingly gets short shrift in the article. Read the full cover story here. Highlights of Dieguito runnin’ game at the ’86 World Cup after the jump.

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