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SPORTS | 23-05-2024 16:49

Maradona's family bid to block 1986 World Cup 'Golden Ball' trophy sale in France

Diego Maradona's heirs have taken legal action in France to block the controversial sale of the Argentine football legend's 'Golden Ball' trophy from the 1986 Mexico World Cup.

Diego Maradona's heirs have taken legal action in France to block the controversial sale of the Argentine football legend's 'Golden Ball' trophy from the 1986 Mexico World Cup.

The trophy given to the tournament's best player had been missing for decades before being found by an antique dealer in the French capital.

It is due to be sold by Aguttes auction house in Neuilly-sur-Seine, close to Paris on June 6.

Lawyers for the family of Maradona, who died in 2020 aged 60 years, argued that the latest piece of memorabilia from the player's glittering career which is expected to fetch millions, rightly belongs to his five heirs.

In 2022, Maradona's Argentina jersey from the 1986 tournament sold for close to $9.3 million, while the "Hand of God" ball from the quarter-final against England sold for $2.4 million later that year.

According to the Maradona family, the trophy given to their father in November 1986 at the Lido Cabaret in Paris, was stolen during a bank robbery three years later in Naples. 

The player's family claim they only discovered a few weeks ago that it was to be auctioned and immediately took legal action to try to reclaim it.

"The family aims to recover this ball, the Argentine people want to recover this ball," lawyer Lola Chunet told a court in Nanterre, outside Paris.

Lawyer Arthur Gaulier, representing Aguttes, argued: "Attempting 35 years after an alleged theft, to claim property without ever having filed a complaint, is an opportunistic approach that justice cannot condone."

On Thursday, lawyers for the auction house and the trophy seller claimed that the Maradona family had not provided proof of a complaint filed at the time. 

Maximilien Aguttes, director of the auction house, said one of the "legends" circulating about the award was that Maradona forgot it at the Lido the evening it was awarded.

The antique dealer who acquired the trophy said he bought it at an auction in 2016 "in the same hardware lot" of hundreds of trophies, most of little value. 

"He bought them for 500 euros excluding fees," detailed the seller's lawyer Marine Le Bihan, at a price which valued each trophy at 1.20 euros, before realising that one could be Maradona's "Golden Ball".

During his research to prove its authenticity, he contacted one of the footballer's lawyers, insisted Le Bihan. 

The court will decide on May 30 whether the sale can take place. 

At the same time, a criminal complaint was filed, the prosecution confirmed to AFP. 

The trophy has nothing to do with the 'Ballon d'Or' awarded by France Football magazine to the best player of the year.

--TIMES/AFP

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