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Cheated by a genius

When Diego Maradona tipped the ball over the head of England Goal Keeper, Peter Shilton with “God’s hand” – an action, which Tunisian Referee Ali Bin Naser missed, and scored the second goal in the quarter final of Mexico Soccer World Cup of 1986, it was perhaps divine judgment passed on the debate of who was the best player of that tournament. It was a face-off between two, who many experts considered best players of the world – one in attack and another in defence. Fairly or unfairly, it seems that God was on the side of vile of an attacking player.

Even though that matter was closed forever and even forgotten, Kerala, once again was reminded of that event, as the great Goal Keeper of England and perhaps the best custodian of modern times, Peter Shilton visited Kozhikode. Some media persons even enquired about the same and Shilton replied that he is still not able to forgive Maradona for that act, even though he admires the second goal for its sheer excellence. He was the Chief Guest for the final of UN@70 trophy occurring there on December fourth. This was a soccer tournament organised by Kerala Football Association (KFA) in partnership with United Nations Organisation for schools in Kerala. He also announced the names of the franchisees taking part in the Kerala Super league, which is the soccer league announced by KFA, on the lines of Indian Super League (ISL).                                                      

Football fans of Kozhikode were once lucky to witness their hero, Diego Maradona in flesh and blood, as Bobby Chemannur’s enterprise brought him there. This time, they had a chance to see a master craftsman of a low profile role in the highly revered game of soccer. Although may be not as highly adored as a goal scorer, the master Goal Keeper, too, had a substantially large fan following, especially   among knowledgeable football aficionados.

Shilton at 13 years started to train with his local cub, Leicester City in 1963. There he caught the attention of the main goalkeeper, Gordon Banks, who also was another world famous Goal Keeper. He recommended Shilton to the coach having got impressed with his performance. It might be another instance of divine justice that Shilton himself caused the exit of Banks from Leicester as he gave the club an ultimatum about the choice of main Goal Keeper. 

Shilton made his debut in professional football, when he was sixteen in May 1966, as he played for Leicester against Everton. He earned 125 international caps by playing for the England football team and still holds the record for being most capped for an English player. He also holds the all–time record for the maximum number of games played in world football.

Shilton could make his debut in World Cup finals only at the age of thirty two, as his excellent predecessors blocked his entry. Still he could play 17 final games and also shares the record of 10 games of no goals scored against him, along with French Keeper, Fabien Barthez.  

As in most interviews, Shilton recounted about the only mistake he made in his entire professional career against Poland in a match, which was best remembered for the heroics of Polish Goal Keeper, Jan Tomaszewski.