Chatting to Ossie Ardiles, Ricky Villa, Paul Miller at the Argentine Embassy

A Sports Diplomacy event last night.

Two Panels, each with a Q&A

In his introductory remarks the ambassador said he was interested in how the UK had won so many medals in the last two Olympics.

He noted that in the UK and Argentina each team has its own stadium, which is often not the case in other countries.

Mahdi Choudhury, our Chef De Mission for the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games, talked a lot of sense in a succinct style.

Mariano Costa, who has worked on the TV side of seven Olympic Games, admitted that in Rio he put himself in charge of the Beach Volleyball: “Somebody had to do it!”

The issues discussed were serious but the crowd seemed to take their cues from remarks like that, so the Q&A’s were quite boisterous and entertaining. A Scottish head teacher, who supports Wolves, was quite funny and I regret not meeting her as we mingled afterwards.

Stefano Lucchetti, now training for Tokyo 2020, was born into a household where both parents were fencing coaches. His family have been fencing for five generations. As a little kid he loved the swords but his father Marcos said he wasn’t old enough. When Stefano was seven he persuaded his mum to take him to a regional fencing competition without his father’s knowledge. His dad was there last night, so we can assume Lucchetti senior has forgiven that escapade.

Second panel?

On and off the stage Ossie and Ricky proved to be a very good double act and their moderator was John Carlin, a sports journalist with a political edge.

Carlin said that when the 1978 World Cup was about to start he was at university and rented a small black & white TV set to watch it.

On the upcoming World Cup in Russia, Ardiles said that Brazil were the strongest team at the moment. After that, Germany and Spain. But he hoped Argentina could reach the semi-finals.

Iceland’s ambassador, an engaging character,  told us that his country is the smallest nation to ever qualify for a World Cup. To Ossie he said, “I’m disappointed that you didn’t put Iceland in the top four. We play you on June 16th.”

Afterwards I just talked to Ossie, Ricky, Paul Miller and their friend Ronnie Simkins and there was plenty of illuminating chit-chat about Steve Archibald, Lineker, Klinsmann and this week’s 1-0 win over Newcastle.

Paul, a friend of  my lawyer pal Mark Jacob, was the social secretary of the team that Ossie and Ricky joined in 1978.

All evening I had been wondering about something and asked Ossie: “Did you ever play against Mario Kempes in club football?”

He said, “I played in the same team with Mario since we were twelve. He is my best friend in football, along with Ricky.”

Walked up to the corner of Hyde Park with Gary Jacob and then strolled down Piccadilly, past an obscene stretch limo, and down into Green Park Tube. I got home at 9.25pm.

“Hello, love. How was it?”

“Really good fun. Far better than I expected. Gary sends his regards.”