Flip Flop Flying

Maradona vs. Belgium

with 30 comments

As iconic as this photograph is, I have no idea who took it. (Update: the photo was taken by Steve Powell. Thanks to Keith Last for telling me this.) Type “Maradona Belgium” into Google Images and many of the results are of this image. Type in simply “Maradona” and it comes up fairly quickly, too.

What the photograph shows us is six Belgian players all watching what Diego Maradona is doing. (The game was Belgium and Argentina’s first group game at the 1982 World Cup in Spain, at the Camp Nou in Barcelona.) What we take from the photograph is further confirmation of what we already know: Maradona was utterly fantastic. And that is what the photograph is intended to do.

But there’s a lot that the photograph does not tell us. Aside from not telling us that Belgium won the game 1-0 (Erwin Vandenbergh, 62′), the photograph is a little bit deceiving.

On YouTube, there are two videos of highlights from the game. (1st half, 2nd half.) The moment in the photograph is about one minute and fifteen seconds into the second video.

Maradona is fouled, and the referee awards Argentina a free kick, and gives a yellow card to Luc Millecamps.

Osvaldo Ardiles takes a short free kick, passing it to Maradona.

And this is where we see the moment that the photograph was taken. Maradona had not even touched the ball at this point. His left foot is raised ready to receive the ball.

We can see in the video Ardiles is about to run directly through the Belgian players who made up the wall. And all of those players who, in the photograph, look like they are there to stop Maradona being awesome, are actually just breaking out of being a wall, eyes following the ball. Maradona attempts to cross the ball to a teammate on the left side of the box, but it’s cleared by Millecamps.

The photograph… well, it tricks us.

Nonetheless, it’s a cool photo, and it illustrates a point beautifully: Maradona was fucking amazing.

Written by Craig

May 30th, 2013 at 8:07 am

Posted in Blah blah,Sports

30 Responses to 'Maradona vs. Belgium'

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  1. Ha! Loved reading this!


    1 Jun 13 at 06:09

  2. Nice work on this!


    6 Jun 13 at 01:34

  3. http://i3.mirror.co.uk/incoming/article884141.ece/ALTERNATES/s615/Spain+v+Ireland+-+Group+C:+UEFA+EURO+2012

    Can the same be said of this, do you think?
    Looks similar but knowing Ireland all too well this was just their preferred tactic re: Silva.


    6 Jun 13 at 11:02

  4. Entirely possible, yes.


    6 Jun 13 at 11:04

  5. @Dan,

    No, that was just a rebound in the box. It’s legitimate defending from live play.

    Silva’s goal:


    Great bit by the way. A lot of this kind of thing circulate the internet without any sort of context. Nice to see this type of post for once.


    6 Jun 13 at 17:54

  6. Thanks, Felipe.


    6 Jun 13 at 17:55

  7. Great article!! Yes he was a great player, but he will always be a cheat to me. Belgium won, ha ha ha ha.


    8 Jun 13 at 05:49

  8. Nice piece! Never really thought about it, always assumed the goal was somewhere to the left, while Diego was rushing towards it.


    11 Jun 13 at 07:13

  9. This never ending glorification of Maradona is myopic beyond belief. Garrincha, Puskas, Beckenbauer, Cruyff, DiStefano, Eusebio, Laudrup and on and on. A drug addled narcissist who makes Suarez look aloof by comparison. And his days at Naploli were aided by the Camorra!


    19 Jun 13 at 07:15

  10. A modern day equivalent.

    Iniesta v Italy, 2012



    15 Jul 13 at 10:58

  11. @Dan – you’re so stupid, as Felipe said, it was legitimate defending to a rebound. “Knowing Ireland too well” – you don’t know jack.


    25 Jul 13 at 03:28

  12. Really interesting read, thanks!


    8 Aug 13 at 07:43

  13. I recommend looking up footage of the 2002 World Cup Semi Final where Denilson was chased by 5 or 6 Turkish defenders towards the cornerflag. It was a great match too, won by a superb goal improvised by Ronaldo.

    Adam Byrne

    8 Aug 13 at 16:43

  14. Actually it was 4, funny nonetheless:


    Adam Byrne

    8 Aug 13 at 16:44

  15. Although, clearly your interpretation of the evidence is correct, you completely fail to understand what that picture represents: it’s symbolic of the greatness of Maradona and the fear other teams had for him. People like you try to massage all the feeling, emotion and romance from historic moments in time and replace that with evidence presented as if it were intended for court. Seriously, you have displayed and proved just one thing; you don’t have a clue. Really, none at all…


    10 Aug 13 at 09:56

  16. Oh dear, Paul. While you seem to think I failed to understand what the photograph represents, I’d put it to you that you failed to actually read what I wrote in both the second paragraph and the last line of the post, where I clearly state what you’ve just accused me of not understanding.

    And yes, obviously, “people like [me]” are here solely to destroy all joy in the world. I’m so glad you were able to take that from one blog post. Clearly you’re superior to me in every way, dick.


    10 Aug 13 at 10:11

  17. Oh Craig, you were doing so well until that last sentence! It’s the Internut C ;there’s always going to be random eedjits. Best policy is just to ignore them and let them go ahead and make absolute jackasses of themselves. Or someone else will come along and correct their misapprehensions for them, saving you the bother.

    Aside that, I knew this story already, but you have put it together so well. I’d recommend a (non-sporting, more political) book of photography to you called ‘Underexposed’. It’s along the same lines.

    All the best,


    Dominic Lowndes

    10 Aug 13 at 13:13

  18. Thanks, Dominic, I’ll keep an eye out for that book.


    10 Aug 13 at 13:18

  19. Thank you for this article. For years, I’ve heard people talk about ‘that photo when he ran past the Belgians in 86’, even though the footage quite clearly shows it’s not that occasion. So I always wondered what the context for this photo was. Of course it’s a defensive wall!

    Ignore people like Paul. My absolute pet hate is nostalgia triumphing over history. It’s basically propaganda triumphing over journalism. Unfortunately, there’s too many people in this world who take myths and symbols to an absurdly literal conclusion.

    Having said that, the photograph – a single moment in time – does illustrate a deeper truth. In that one moment, before he kicks the ball, the Belgians really are apprehensive about what he’ll do next. Just not quite in the manner inferred.


    11 Aug 13 at 15:40

  20. Remember that game very clearly….. Belgium grimly holding onto that 1-0 lead, holding off one furious Argentine attack after another, the frustration building by the minute until the typical Argentine boilover point.

    It has sucked watching this team for the past 35 years. Stressful and painful.

    Don Nefasto

    13 Aug 13 at 15:34

  21. Better, I think, than being English in that regard…


    13 Aug 13 at 15:47

  22. Good article. In a funny way, I am worse off for reading it.
    All romance of the picture is dead!


    14 Aug 13 at 08:14

  23. At last. Thank you.


    14 Aug 13 at 22:00

  24. http://i.imgur.com/wO52R.jpg

    this pic is probably more accurately representing his impact on the pitch. No misleading here, he really did leave the defenders on their arses and score, theres a video on youtube of it

    shame its not more iconic


    23 Aug 13 at 19:29

  25. 4 years later : http://youtu.be/0E9qCaoEgl8


    2 Jul 14 at 20:15

  26. […] einmal genau angeschaut und konnte so den vermeintlich brandgefährlichen Moment banalisieren (Link). Die Belgier sahen sich Maradona nicht im halben Dutzend ausgeliefert, es handelte sich schlicht […]

  27. Craig, it would appear the Guardian are running a story on this photograph analysis which arguably stems from your work here, but they don’t seem to credit you. They interview the photographer who took the snap of Maradona in ’82 but I don’t see any mention this May 2013 article

    Andy P

    6 Jul 14 at 05:07

  28. Yes, I saw that. Good article. Good to read about the photographer. http://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2014/jul/05/diego-maradona-belgium-famous-photo


    6 Jul 14 at 07:36

  29. Great post. I saw that photo often during the World Cup and I wondered why six Belgians would cluster around Maradona and leave the rest of the field wide open. Thanks for breaking it down.


    12 Aug 14 at 07:20

  30. Graham Clayton

    9 Oct 15 at 03:27

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