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22nd Jun 2017

Over 3 decades on from Mexico 86, some questions about the greatest photograph ever taken

Forget Diego Maradona, this image is the best thing to have come out of that day in the Azteca

Simon Lloyd

32 years have passed by since England met Argentina at the 1986 Mexico World Cup

To mark this anniversary, we’ve chosen to ignore all the usual stuff about the nature of the two goals scored by Diego Maradona and concentrate on something considerably more interesting: what the bloody hell is going on in this quite magnificent picture, taken in the Azteca on that very same day.


A work of art, we’re sure you’ll agree. Having pored over the image for much longer than we probably should have done, we now have a series of questions about it.

Let us begin.

Are the two men in the foreground fighting or dancing?

Now hear us out on this. Given that this was 1986 – a time when English football hooliganism was rife and the Falklands War was still very much fresh in the memories of many of those in attendance that day – it might seem reasonable to assume that this is just two blokes having a scrap.

However, ignoring all of this context and the fact that Whigfield’s Saturday Night was only released a decade or so later, we prefer to imagine the man with the t-shirt on his head is simply emulating the Danish pop star’s forearm roll; not regaining his composure after shattering the other man’s cheekbone with his left fist.

Given the look on the other man’s face, it doesn’t seem too far-fetched to suggest that he too might be dancing… although perhaps in more of an ecstasy-fuelled-rave kind of way.

And who knows? Maybe that hand on the left is even grasping the neck of an air guitar?

(They’re blatantly fighting though.)

What did this man’s photograph turn out like?

Seeing as we’re all now in agreement that this is one of the greatest sporting photographs ever taken, we can’t help but wonder how the scene might have appeared from a different angle. You know – a bit like when you see footage of a particularly memorable goal but from a different vantage.

Probably not as good, but still, we wonder…

Did this man vote for Brexit?

There’s not much to this really. We’d just like to know.

Why is the man on the right wearing a shirt and tie anyway?

Now we’re not saying a pair of very short shorts and a t-shirt around your head is a brilliant look, but when you consider this match was taking place in the searing heat of Mexico City’s iconic Azteca Stadium, you can at least understand this choice of outfit from a practical point of view.

The other main subject of this photograph, who the internet reliably informs us is from Argentina, has opted for a very different look. Instead he’s chosen to model himself on your old geography teacher.

This, unless you’re on pundit duty or a Fifa official, is just plain odd. He’s not even undone his top button for fuck’s sake.

Have the moustachioed spectators in the background ever truly understood what excitement is?

Seeing as everyone in shot probably paid good money to be at the game, it seems what’s playing out between T-shirt head and Shirt-and-tie man is far more exciting than whatever’s going on on the field of play. Not that the two men directly behind look like they’ve ever been excited by anything at all.

Look at them, standing there, completely unflustered and devoid of emotion, like some unimpressed Hispanic version of the Chuckle Brothers.

What is the unexcited bare-chested man trying to prove by precariously balancing on an arm rest and the back of a seat?

Considering he looks so thoroughly bored at the fight/dance off that’s taking place before him, the shirtless man in jeans is doing all he can to get the best possible vantage point.

While the other Chuckle Brother – Barry, let’s say – adopts a more sure-footed stance with every square centimetre of his trainers’ soles in contact with the main part of his seat, Paul perches on an armrest and the back of his chair. With nobody in front of him to obscure his view, this seems utterly pointless.

Who won?

History tells us that Argentina got the better of England in the game itself, but seeing as we’ve long since established that this image is much more interesting than the result of the match, we’d like to know the winner of this contest – be it a dance off or an alcohol-fuelled show of football violence beneath the beating Mexican sun.

Unfortunately, we’ll probably never find this out.