ESPN Soccer Stories: White, Blue and White (2014)

Directed by Camilo Antolini

As the last entry in the ESPN Soccer Stories series, which originally aired leading up to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, White, Blue and White gets me thinking about what soccer means to the world at large, and specifically which countries hold it most dear. Of course, looking back through the series, Brazil was of course well represented, but with White, Blue and White we also see Argentina represented. Though I know very little about the current game, and even less about the history of the sport, I can at least say I know Argentina has been a player in the soccer world for some time, and is currently home to the world’s greatest player Lionel Messi. Of course, Messi plays for Barcelona in the Spanish La Liga, as most premier soccer players play in Europe, often away from their home countries. Camilo Antolini takes us back to another Argentine great who played in Europe, but his story is much more tumultuous.

Osvaldo Ardiles won a World Cup with Argentina in 1978, which spurred his growing attention in Europe and eventual soccer home as a member of a very successful Tottenham Hotspur team in England. But in 1982, the Falklands War broke out. A quick history lesson tells us that the Falkland, or Malvinas, Islands are a long disputed string of islands off the Argentine coast. Internationally recognized as belonging to England, the Argentine government disputes this fact and in 1982, amid mild political turmoil, they invaded the islands, figuring the British would not respond militarily. They were wrong, and the Falklands war lasted a few weeks. This time, as you can imagine, was difficult for an Argentine soccer star in England. Caught between the two nations at a time of conflict, Ardiles and fellow countryman Ricky Villa, who was his teammate with Tottenham, struggled to stay loyal to their English club team while also supporting their country.

To see this dramatic play in documentary form is a bit gut-wrenching as I imagine what it would be like to be thrust in so many directions with such a sense of responsibility for national pride and a workmanlike attitude to contribute to your club team and endear yourself to a fanbase who, at the time, was at war with your country. The film itself is not overly powerful, nor does it add a cinematic flair to the events, but it doesn’t really need to with such a ready-made story as that of Ossie and Ricky. It is fascinating, ironically enough, to get the perspective of their English teammates. Sure, hearing from Ossie and RIcky on what ate at them, and what they had to go through was great, but hearing from their English teammates who knew these men more intimately than their countrymen, who were their friends, helps put life a little more into perspective. Even when politics get in the way of your job, its the relationships you build with friends, family, and in this case a fanbase, which permeates amid the tumult.

*** – Good

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