The Old School

25 Jul

(Argentina legend Osvaldo Ardiles with Alan Black)

You see the great footballers of today under the deck of exclusion. They seem unapproachable; some seem rude, even ungrateful. And when they are not spotted tuned into I-Pod headphones, it’s an image of them playing themselves on the latest version of FIFA 2010. Fortunately, not everyone in soccer is so young and narcissistic.

Last week, I had the great pleasure finding myself in one of San Francisco’s best bars, Danny Coyle’s, top drawer for soccer and all things good about drinking. Scores of loyal Tottenham Hostpur fans were there to welcome a legend from their club’s glorious past, Argentine great, Osvaldo Ardiles, “la piton,” the python as he was known in his mesmerizing playing days. A World Cup winner in 1978, Ardiles was the early prototype that arguably Maradona and later Messi were molded from. Gliding with ease, stroking passes, seeing opportunity and pouncing like a cat.  Ozzie never stopped working.

Ardiles’ arrival in North London in 1978 was exotic. British football was largely homogenous in its tough tackling and long ball game. The flair of the Latin was unheard of and soon fans at White Hart Lane were being entertained by rhythm instead of pounding old brass.  Spurs fell in love with Ardiles, and even when Britain was in a bloody conflict with Argentina during the Falklands War in 1982, Ardiles continued to receive the club and the supporters embrace.

Decades after his last sublime pass at Spurs, the fans inside Danny Coyle’s lined up to have their photo taken with Ozzie. Fans too young to remember him at Spurs joined in the worship. Old greats in soccer exist like the Gods in the myths. Fans had their shirts signed, match programs from famous games were pulled out, and one lady had waited since 1981 to have Ardiles sign her FA Cup Final ticket.  And like a gentleman with copious amounts of patience and eloquence, Ardiles the man was Ardiles the player.

With the 2010 World Cup failure list belonging to the so-called greats of our time, feedings of a more humble pie should be on the menu for some of our greats today. If not, maybe they will find themselves not being invited to venues like Danny Coyle’s in the future.

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3 Responses to “The Old School”

  1. Steve - SF Spur August 3, 2010 at 9:33 am #

    Mate, I agree. I followed Spurs to NY, autograph signings and Q&A’s, Ossie came out. Our captain: Robbie Keane, looked like a petulant child during the games… Where are todays ambassadors?

  2. Rolfe Jones August 3, 2010 at 4:10 pm #

    Hey Alan, it was great to meet you at the same event that you described and in the questions afterwards I was most interested in your question and how he )Ossie Ardiles) felt the atmosphere affected Football in Israel etc. I really enjoyed our brief conversation and look forward to speaking/keeping in touch with you going forward – certainly if you get down to the Los Angeles area, look forward to you seeing a game with the LA Spurs 🙂 Certainly meeting Ardiles along with my wife was a great moment and I too had waited since 1981 to get my Cup Final replay program signed. What a fantastic evening and what a dignified style of interview that was given by the legend himself.

    • Alan Black August 6, 2010 at 9:31 pm #

      Hi Rolfe,
      Thanks for getting in touch. I am doing some research into domestic Israeli football. I’m hoping to build some contacts in Israel who can point me in the right direction should I be able to get over there. When I get down to LA, I’ll look you up for a chat. Best wishes for the new season. Lot’s of promise…a good start essential.

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