When Argentina won its first FIFA World Cup, in 1978, Osvaldo Ardiles, popularly known as Ossie, was one of its most important marshals in the midfield, helping the ball move from their half to the feet of Mario Kempes, their hero of the tournament.
Since then, the country has won the World Cup two more times, including the latest one, under Lionel Messi, and has become the most successful side in the U-20 FIFA World Cup, winning it six times.
In an exclusive chat with Sportstar, Ossie – who was in India to announce a partnership between Tottenham Hotspur and Kickstart FC – discussed the importance of Argentina winning the World Cup in Qatar and about his time with fellow legends, Kempes and Diego Maradona.
Q: How important is the World Cup for Argentina, in terms of youth development in football?
A: Oh, it is everything. Until 1978, Argentina was not, say the No. 1 country in world football, historically. So, from the moment we won the first one, everybody (started) respecting Argentina. We wanted to win the next one and got it in 1986. So everybody was very happy. But then, as you know, we went quite a long time without winning the World Cup.
And the amount of criticism that Messi was receiving at the time was incredible really. But now, he and the team, the new boys, won it again. When you win it the first time, winning (thereon) becomes easier and easier, (be it) a tennis player or a golfer or whatever. So this is what happened and now we have established Argentina as a very strong team. I mean not only the senior team, at the under-17 right now, doing extremely well in Indonesia for example, and always with new players coming up, it’s very nice to see.
You were part of the first World Cup-winning team, playing right behind Mario Kempes, the hero of that tournament. How was Campos in the dressing room for the Argentina team?
In football, I have two very good friends, one is Ricky Villa, because I played with him for so many years, and the other one is Mario Kempes because we (started) playing together in the first Division in Argentina (at Instituto de Córdoba) and then we were reunited in the national team, so it was wonderful.
I played with Maradona as well. So, when you play with these guys, it’s a challenge because you have to be on your toes all the time.
How was it playing with Diego and is there any particular incident that sticks in your head that you remember playing with Maradona?
It was absolutely wonderful. There are so many things (I remember). But one thing (particularly) is that before the game, from his point of view, he could have been completely relaxed because he knew that he would just come onto the pitch and he would start doing wonderful things.
He was the best player in the world and it was incredibly easy to play for him. But he didn’t do that. In fact, he rallied the team around him. He tried to talk to every single one and the team. “Come on, we have to win, team. We had to go right from the beginning,” he would start saying all these things.
He was kind of a manager of the thing, like incentivising all of us when he didn’t really need it for him. So it was great. When you see this kind of reaction from him, immediately, we (used) to react to that.
There was another thing that he used to do. It was very funny. You’ve probably seen it before the game. He will go into the pitch and start to do these wonderful things. I mean, the ball to the right, to the left and in the air and with the head, everything.
Of course, all the time, the opposition was looking at him and some of them stopped doing what they were doing, just to see him doing all these tricks. So imagine you are in the other team and you are saying, ‘Oh, we are playing against him now.’ So, it was psychologically a very, very important thing. He was a wonderful person.
Terry Venables, one of England’s greatest managers, passed away recently. You worked with him, in some capacity, at Tottenham Hotspur. How was he as a manager?
Rest in peace, Terry. He was a wonderful character. I would say, he was one of a kind. I was the manager of Tottenham after him and in fact, when I finished playing, Terry was my manager. The idea he had about football was very innovative. He had new ideas and used to think outside the box and it was very nice to play with him. He had been ill for a while. But still, it was a shock when we knew that he was no longer with us.
According to you, who is the greatest Argentinian footballer of all time, Maradona or Messi?
Both are absolutely wonderful. But I have a very, very special relationship relationship with Maradona. So my heart is with him all the time. Though both are very close, if you put me in a spot to make a decision, I’ll go for Maradona.