SOFIA Bulgarian Bogdan Dochev, the assistant referee who failed to notice Diego Maradona's infamous 'Hand of God' goal during the 1986 World Cup match between Argentina and England, has died at the age of 80, the Bulgarian Football Union said.
In the pulsating quarter-final won 2-1 by Argentina, Maradona produced two of the most talked about goals in the history of football. After hoodwinking officials with his first handball effort, he dribbled past five England players in a brilliant solo effort.
Following the handball, TV images showed Tunisian referee Ali Bin Nasser running slowly backwards towards the centre of the pitch and looking at Dochev. The Bulgarian, however, did not wave his flag stood absolutely still.
"Although I felt immediately there was something irregular, back in that time FIFA didn’t allow the assistants to discuss the decisions with the referee," Dochev told Bulgarian media a few years ago.
"If FIFA had put a referee from Europe in charge of such an important game, the first goal of Maradona would have been disallowed."
But Bin Nassir had a different view and said: "I was waiting for Dochev to give me a hint of what exactly happened but he didn’t signal for a handball.
"The instructions FIFA gave us before the game were clear – if a colleague was in a better position than mine, I should respect his view."
Dochev, capped two times by Bulgaria as a player, blamed Maradona for ruining his refereeing career and his life.
"Diego Maradona ruined my life," he said. "He is a brilliant footballer but a small man. He is low in height and as a person too."
Dochev, Bulgaria's top referee in the 1970s and 1980s, also officiated at the 1982 World Cup finals as well as dozens of European club competitions matches, including the 1983 UEFA Cup final's first leg between Belgium's Anderlecht and Portugal's Benfica.
(Reporting by Angel Krasimirov, editing by Pritha Sarkar)