Great one-offs – Argentina, 1986

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  • Thanks to Terence Ryan, who provided the relevant information from Diego Maradona’s book Touched by God: How We Won the Mexico ’86 World Cup

Today, June 22, is the 34th anniversary of Argentina beating England in the 1986 World Cup quarter-final, a game where Diego Maradona scored two goals, equally as memorable but for different reasons.

In Argentina’s last-16 win over Uruguay, both sides had worn change shirts and, to the naked eye it looked as if Carlos Bilardo’s side were in the same outfit of royal blue shirts, black shorts and white socks for the last-eight clash.

Incidentally, in the Uruguay game, both sides were in the same Le Coq Sportif design and there were inconsistencies for each team. Maradona wore socks with two sky-blue stripes whereas his team-mates had adidas-like three stripes; some Uruguay players had their numbers on the right leg of their shorts with the Le Coq logo on the left, while others had the opposite. Four years later, Maradona would also play a game in different socks to his colleagues.

Despite the 1-0 win, Argentina’s players weren’t enamoured with the shirts, as Maradona explained:

Le Coq Sportif had made us a really nice home jersey. The fabric was eyelet, a light mesh [Aertex] that was ideal for the terrible heat in Mexico, especially at noon, an unbearable hour. But they had forgotten that we also had to have an alternate jersey – I don’t think they cared much about that. When we played against Uruguay in Puebla, it started pouring and the alternate blue jersey they had given us weighed us down like a wet sweater. When we found that we were going to have to wear that alternate jersey against England because they were wearing white, we got really upset: playing a match at that altitude in Mexico City at noon in a sweater? And against England? No way!

We asked the brand to make us a blue one in eyelet, just like the home jersey, but they said they couldn’t do it in time for the match. Bilardo took out a pair of scissors and started punching little holes in the blue jerseys to try to imitate eyelet – totally ludicrous.

But poor Rubén Moschella, the AFA office employee, was able to work it out. He was the one who had gotten the list of the phone numbers that allowed me to figure out how much Passarella had spent on phone calls, so why wouldn’t he be able to come up with a set of blue jerseys? It seems like a joke now, but it was a real problem back then. I mean, could anyone imagine a national team at the World Cup today combing the city looking for an alternate jersey, as if they were in Once, the Buenos Aires neighbourhood where fabrics are sold? Well, that’s exactly what we did.

Moschella went to forty different stores. Forty. Some say he went to Héctor Zelada’s shop – Zelada played for Argentina, but he also had a sporting goods store – but Zelada doesn’t remember it. The one thing for sure is that Moschella found two jerseys at two different stores. But neither was eyelet; that was a special design. He asked them to put both models on hold and came by the training camp with them to ask which one he should buy. He could have just bought both sets, but that’s how they pinched pennies back then!

So there they were, checking out both models, one day before the game. They asked me, and I didn’t hesitate for a second. I pointed to one of them and said, “That one. We’ll beat England in that one.”

Naturally, “that one” was missing the national team emblem and the numbers – just a minor detail. Two seamstresses at the training camp sewed them on. They did a pretty good job but missed a few details, like the laurel leaves.

The shirts were Le Coq Sportif but an older style with a slightly different logo. They had deeper wrapover v-neck and shadow stripes and the AFA crest was of the previous style. England wore their home shirts but changed shorts and socks – though a socks-clash wasn’t an issue against Uruguay. As the FA had registered sky-blue as their second kit with red as third choice, it was the blue shorts and socks that were used.

The backs of the Argentina shirts added to ad-hoc nature, with Maradona again painting a colourful picture:

And the numbers, the numbers were a joke. When we went out on to the field, some of the guys had sparkles on their face because the numbers were silver and sparkly. And after genius kit man Tito Benrós had ironed those numbers onto thirty-eight jerseys, he looked like he should have been at carnival, not at Azteca stadium! If it happened, to rain, like it had in our match against Uruguay, it was going to be a real disaster: we wouldn’t know who was who or what position the others were playing.

So with our hand and faces covered in sparkles, we went to sleep at eleven o’clock that night. And the game was early the next morning.

Of course, the numbers served Argentina well as they won thanks to Maradona’s cunning and genius, going all the way in the competition. Steve Hodge ended up with the blue number 10 shirt.

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