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Ricky Villa - The Finest FA Cup Final Goal Of All Time?

Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy - British Council
 This article was generously provided to ClubFootball by the British Council, which operates in China as the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy.


In 1981, Argentina's Ricky Villa was the toast of English football, having just scored what is widely acknowledged to be the best ever goal in a FA Cup Final. Just 12 months later he was being booed by English fans as England and Argentina locked horns in the Falklands conflict. Yet this hasn't changed the fact that playing and winning in Wembley was the best football experience of his life.
"When I arrived in England, my dream was to play at Wembley, the home of English football. The first two years we didn't make it but the third one we struck lucky which really meant a lot. On top of that, I had the chance to score the winning goal, so it was like a dream come true".
Villa says he will always be grateful both for that moment and for his five years playing in England. He adds that the Falklands conflict was unfortunate but it hasn't changed his experience of the country and its people.
"It was uncomfortable but not unbearable. The club supported me and treated me well. And even when I got booed from the stands, the fans didn't insult me. Actually, I thought the shouts were from the opposing team fans trying to distract me, so I wasn't that bothered."
It's been twenty years since Ricky Villa scored that historic goal, but he admits that he savours it like a fine wine which gets better over time.
"When I scored I thought, great, we've won the cup, but I didn't really think much more about it. But it's become more and more special to me ever since. I did it in the right place and at the right time. It was an Argentine goal in Wembley and I really feel proud about that", he explains.
"It was a decisive game. There had already been a final match for that cup which was a draw so this was it. There was a lot of pressure. We were 2-2 and there were 15 or 20 minutes before time. So that goal was an extraordinary feeling, really uplifting, like the most amazing party", he remembers.
Villa arrived in England after Argentina won the 1978 World Cup. He was one of the first foreign players in the English league. " We landed in a completely different culture and style of football . We were a bit thrown, but looking back, it wasn't that difficult to adapt because it's always easier to get used to better conditions. Today I can tell you that it was the best football experience of my life", he says. "You do miss the food, and especially the beef, but in the long run you can live with it. The difficult part was the language. But I'd say we got used to living in England pretty quickly, on the whole".
For Villa, the qualities of English football that make it outstanding are the professional standards of the clubs, the no-nonsense approach people have to working together and the high overall level of the league. "Things are well organised and people respect the players. For me, English football is the real thing when it comes to professionalism. I feel that things work better in England because people take them seriously".
"I remember that the last two years in Tottenham I didn't even need to sign a contract. Here in Argentina that wouldn't happen, and even if you have a contract you have to fight to get paid".
After five years playing for Tottenham, Villa spent a season in the United States with the Miami Strikers. Later, he moved to Colombia with the Deportivo Cali and finished his career in Argentina in 1988 in the 2nd division Club "Defensa y Justícia".
"In 1990 I was a coach in charge of 4 teams, but now I'm just another bloke without a job , he says wistfully.
Villa follows his team and tries to keep up with the FA cup, though not all the matches are shown on local television.
"There are lots of fans of English teams here, and although it's not easy to get to see the FA cup matches people do watch other cup matches. And of course we never miss the final".


May 2001

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