Football and diplomacy came together on 21 May at the Argentine Embassy in the United Kingdom with a roundtable debate on football organised by Ambassador Alicia Castro in London.
“Historically, there have been many cultural ties between the Argentine and the British people. Football is, without doubt, foremost among them”, the Ambassador stated at the function, entitled “Argentina and England: History of a common passion”.
Jim White, Daily Telegraph, Osvaldo Ardiles, Ambassador Alicia Castro, Ricky Villa, Jimmy Burns, and Victor Hugo Morales
Participating in the roundtable were journalist Victor Hugo Morales – who made the journey especially for the event – former world champions with Argentina and renowned football players in the English Premier League, Osvaldo Ardiles and Ricky Villa, as well as the English journalists Jim White, from The Daily Telegraph, and Jimmy Burns, a renowned author of various books on football.
Before a large audience, Victor Hugo Morales told the story of the beginnings of football in Argentina as well as the influential role that British immigrants played in the rise of the game in the country; Ardiles and Villa recounted anecdotes of matches between Argentina and England in various World Cups and spoke about their experience as the first Argentine footballers to play in England; Jimmy Burns and Jim White, meanwhile, shared their insight on football in British society as well as talking about the great expectations that every meeting between the teams generate. The audience alluded, in particular, to Diego Maradona’s goals against England in 1986 and Ricky Villa’s historic goal against Manchester City in 1981, considered in England “the goal of the century”. Finally, the panellists gave their predictions on the upcoming World Cup.
Just weeks away from the 2014 World Cup kick-off in Brazil, the roundtable discussion, attended by several local journalists and representatives from English football clubs, is one of a series of activities that the Argentine Embassy in London is working on in its effort to build bridges with British society.
“Beyond the prestige that Argentine football enjoys in the United Kingdom, ties between the two countries range from literature to cinema and architecture, linking popular culture in the two countries”, the Ambassador stated. “This is why putting on a dynamic cultural agenda constitutes an important part of our work at the Embassy”, Alicia Castro added, sporting an Argentina football shirt signed by Diego Maradona at the event.
Discussing the role that football plays in our culture, the Ambassador reiterated that in the year 2000, as an MP, she proposed a ground-breaking bill to ensure the free and public television broadcast of all the national team’s games as she deemed them to be of public interest. “It was inconceivable in a country like ours, given the social importance of football, the solidarity and social cohesion that the sport fosters, for the national side’s games not to be accessible to the entire population”, Castro explained when speaking about the bill that became law.