Soccer legend Diego Maradona said the same “hand of God” that helped Argentina win the World Cup in 1986 also played a role in Francis’ ascension as the first pontiff from Latin America.
Now based in Dubai, Maradona -- who scored two unforgettable (if questionable) goals in the 1986 match to eliminate England – wrote a letter to Italy’s newspaper Il Messaggero in which he described himself as a “devout Catholic” and gushed over the new pope.
"I am truly very happy and I am certain that my enthusiasm is shared by the whole Argentinian people," he wrote.
"Everybody in Argentina can remember 'the hand of God' in the England match in the 1986 World Cup. Now, in my country, the 'hand of God' has brought us an Argentinian pope."
The Mirror reported that Maradona also tweeted a photo of himself with a similar message: "The hand of God approves of the new pope."
The “hand of God” remark has never been forgotten by English football fans – indeed, when the British tabloid The Sun reported on Francis’ election on its cover, it used the caption “Hand of God.”
Maradona, now 52, is widely considered one of the greatest football (or soccer) players in history, but his life and career were derailed by a long addiction to cocaine. He almost died during a number of episodes that requited hospitalization over the years.
By May 2007, he claimed to be clean and sober.
He also reportedly owes millions of euros in unpaid taxes to Italian authorities and caused controversies over his outspoken support of Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.