AS SOMEBODY, who was a member of the 1978 FIFA World Cup winning Argentina team, 67-year-old Ossie Ardiles has played football across the world and also managed teams in Europe and Japan later in his career. The former Argentina mid-fielder, who was part of the Daniel Passarella-led Argentina team during their successful campaign in the 1978 FIFA World Cup played in Argentina, has been in Punjab and Chandigarh for the last four days. The former footballer has been impressed with the potential of Indian footballers.
“I am impressed by the talent and the passion showed by the football players here in Chandigarh as well as Punjab. India with a population of 1.3 billion is home to a lot of talent and the country can become a major football nation. Perhaps, they can follow the example of Japan, which have worked on their basics and coaching programmes and are now the Asian champions apart from playing in almost every World Cup. Of course, it will take time for India to reach that level but it depends on how quickly they work on the basic training and making the game more popular among youth apart from running coaching and training programmes,” says the former mid-fielder.
Hailing from Cordoba, Argentina, Ardiles played as a professional footballer at the age of 17 years and made it to the Argentina football team in 1975. The mid-fielder, who played in 53 matches for Argentina including the 1978 world cup which Argentina won, has fond memories of winning the World Cup. “I was studying law when I decided to become a professional footballer. My three brothers played football and I would dream about playing football for the national team. At 17, I played professional football and then the national team. Winning the 1978 World Cup was the best time for all of us. We beat the best team, Holland, 3-1 in the final and to know that we were the world champions was a special feeling for all of us,” said Ardiles, who was also nicknamed Piton or Python for his dribbling skills.
After the 1978 World Cup triumph, Ardiles along with his teammate Rocky Villa were signed by English football club Tottenham Hotspur and the mid-fielder played in 311 matches for the club scoring 25 goals and guiding the team to 1981 FA Cup title and 1982 FA Cup final, a final which he did not play to train with Argentina. Ardiles was also part of the Tottenham Hotspur team, which won the UEFA Cup in 1984 and later acted as manager of teams like Swindon Town, Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur. The mid-fielder also had a song called Ossie’s Dream, title of Tottenham Hotspur fans Chas and Dave track, which reached number five spot on the charts.
“Immediately after the 1978 World Cup, me and Ricky Villa were signed by Tottenham Hotspur and it was start of a new dream for us. In 1981, we won the FA Cup and again won it the next year apart from winning the UEFA Cup in 1984. 1981 was my first FA Cup final and to enter the final with the song Ossie’s Dream was a special feeling. Chas and Dave had made the track and it was a very special song. Chas died 3-4 months ago; it was a very sad moment for me. The song was for all the players and club fans,” said Ardiles, who now is a Tottenham Hotspur ambassador and in Chandigarh with Punjabi Spurs, one of the club’s fan club.
The footballer also played for more than seven years with former Argentina player Diego Maradona and rates him as the best. “The first time I saw Maradona was in 1977, when he was a member of the Argentina U-18 team and trained with the senior team. I knew at that time that this player had a special talent and he showed that. He had the control and skill, which nobody could match in the world. It was a pleasure playing with him for seven years, including the 1982 FIFA World Cup,” the former footballer said.