Both Ricky Villa and Ossie Ardiles spent time with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. Villa featured prominently in the 1983 NASL side alongside among others, Brian Kidd, Nene Cubillias and Ray Hudson. Villa was such a hero among Argentine fans, I can still hear the cries of “Villa!” from the stands at Lockhart Stadium over a quarter century later.
Ardiles, was the headline signing that got the APSL Strikers some ink in 1989. Of course, Ardiles broke our hearts that summer by deciding to go back to England to play for Swindon Town FC, but now he and Villa have really broken our hearts. Villa and Ardiles have opted to back England’s bid for the 2018 World Cup openly.
The two Argentine World Cup legends are certainly within their rights. Both featured prominently for Spurs in the 1980s but in Villa’s case he came to Fort Lauderdale thanks to the Falkland Wars and the hostility he and Ardiles suddenly faced in England. Villa found refuge in South Florida’s large Argentine community, and played fairly well with the Strikers in 1983.
But the decision by the two Argentine legends cuts deeper than simply backing England’s bid. As more and more footballers recount their positive experiences in England’s old first division or Premier League, the US presumably in a competitive bidding process must counter at least in a token fashion.
At a time when the USSF, and associated parties have ramped up an effort to bring the World Cup back to the United States, the two Argentine legends joining the effort by the English FA to secure the 2018 World Cup to me is very telling. With a large number of former NASL players who speak well of their experiences in the United States still playing a prominent role in Global Football, why has the USSF not secured the public support from any of them?
The American bid is long on political and institutional American support, but short on real support from the global football community. The USSF has done an outstanding job in reaching out to business leaders, media personalities, state governors ( California’s Arnold Schwarzenegger ) and university presidents (University of Miami’s Donna Shalala), but the lack of a former international star of Ricky Villa’s stature on the US support list is glaring.
The World Cup requires both institutional support and strong backing from the global football community. No question exists that the United States has a more developed sporting infrastructure that will serve FIFA’s needs when compared to the other bids. But does it have the sentimentality or the credibility that former footballers are bringing to England’s bid? Not yet.
Greater esplanation of my thoughts on the subject can be found here.