WHEN Osvaldo ‘Ossie’ Ardiles signed for Tottenham in the wake of Argentina’s successful World Cup campaign in 1978, he helped to usher in a new wave of foreign players into the English game.
As one of football’s pioneers, Ardiles, alongside his friend and countryman Ricky Villa, became a Spurs legend and the pair were both inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame in 2008.
He had quite a career. A winner of the FA Cup and the UEFA Cup with Tottenham, he also won 52 caps for Argentina too and was a member of his country’s World Cup winning squad in 1978.
Born in Cordoba, the young Ardiles would spend every waking hour playing football in the streets, perfecting his dribbling skills.
As he weaved his way around the pitch, his brother noticed how he resembled a snake as he went this way and that, bewitching the other players.
And it’s then that his nickname was born – Pitón, or ‘Python’.
It’s no comment on his character.
A CAREER IN LAW
With a lawyer for a father, Ardiles felt duty bound to follow a similar career path and even embarked on a law degree.
But then his football career took over and his studies fell by the wayside.
But he’s not entirely turned his back on returning to complete his degree. “It’s a possibility but at the moment I cannot say yes or no,” he says.
In 1981, Ardiles was the subject of Tottenham’s FA Cup song as lifelong Spurs fans Chas & Dave penned Ossie’s Dream for the squad to sing.
He even had a solo in the song, famously warbling “in de cup for Tottingham”, even though he could actually pronounce ‘Tottenham’ properly.
The song reached number 5 in the charts.
DOESN'T RING TRUE
It’s long been a rumour in the game that Ossie’s love of his moment of pop stardom was such that he even used Ossie’s Dream as his ring tone on his mobile phone.
Sadly, it’s not true.
"My son has it on his phone, and I know some friends use it too, but not me,” he insists.
A likely story.
My son has it on his phone, and I know some friends use it too, but not me.”
HOLLYWOOD CAME CALLING
In 1981, Ardiles appeared in the seminal World War II film, Escape To Victory.
In the movie, he played the part of Carlos Rey, appearing alongside fellow footballers like Pele and Bobby Moore and acting legends like Michael Caine, Max von Sydow and Sylvester Stallone.
At the time, Ardiles was acutely embarrassed by his performance but today, nearly 40 years on, he’s come to enjoy it.
“As time has passed, the more I see it, the more I like it,” he says.
That’s the film he’s talking about, not Stallone’s ‘goalkeeping’.
BRUSH WITH ROYALTY
With fame and fortune came opportunity and after the 1981 FA Cup Final win, the Spurs team were invited to a black tie reception where the team would meet Princess Anne.
The problem was that nobody told Ossie what the dress code was.
So up he rocked, dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, only to be ushered away and given a jacket and tie to wear.
Even his wife, according to Ardiles, turned up looking like she was “going shopping”.
During the World Cup they hosted in 1978, Argentina’s players couldn’t agree on which numbers they should have on their shirts so coach Cesar Luis Menotti decided to hand them out in the alphabetical order of their surnames instead.
It was a tradition that continued into the 1982 Finals in Spain when Ardiles was given the No1 shirt.
The only exceptions were Diego Maradona who refused to even consider surrendering the No10 shirt, and the hero of the World Cup win four years earlier, Mario Kempes who took the No11.
A HERO'S WELCOME
When Ardiles and his compatriot Ricky Villa signed for Spurs after the 1978 World Cup, he arrived in England to a rapturous reception and at his first game, away to Nottingham Forest, he found thousands of supporters, home and away, welcoming him.
And then they kicked off.
“Then we were the effing Argentinian b*******!” he says.
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