A few days ago the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Flowers it disguised itself for a few moments as Spanish territory. Despite the low temperatures and the cement that surrounds Buenos Aires, the Canary Archipelago Center of the street Rivera Indarte welcomed fans of Las Palmas Sports Union and of Tenerifewho got together to vibrate with the classic corresponding to the semifinals for the rise to The league.
Dozens of tables with regional dishes, such as traditional tortillas and wrinkled potatoes with mojo and guacamole, accompanied some improvised choripanes who contributed their Argentine quota. And the special guest of the party was Marcelo Ojeda, the former goalkeeper who shone in Europe and participated in the America Cup that Argentina disputed in bolivia in 1997.
The fervent duel of the fans was suddenly silenced when the former soccer player emerged from Defense and Justice appeared on the spot. With a Jean Achupinado and an inflated jacket to combat the cold, the Canarian idol approached at a weary pace to greet each one of those present. “I hardly saw his huge hands, the first thing I thought is that if in his youth he was not a goalkeeper, he was a boxer”, slipped one of the fans with some admiration. The premise was missing something fundamental: his remarkable physical resemblance to the legendary Carlos Monzon. But far from the ring, the former Lanus He stood out under the three sticks.
—you are like a rock starit shows that you left an indelible mark on Tenerife
—It was a brilliant stage personally. I had to change country and continent at a time when it was not customary for Argentine players to join Europe. I had to adapt to many customs in a fantastic country. I was on an island that welcomed me in the best way. With my wife we got used to day to day and I had to get used to football much faster. Already at that time, all the courts had very short and wet grass, which made the game at a different speed.
—Today, with the globalized world, the terrains appear to be similar, but in the 1990s it was something else. Was the change very abrupt?
—Here they played with long, dry grass and there, short and wet. It was something else. In addition, at that time the Spanish teams had more figures than now. Deportivo La Coruña had Bebeto, Donato and Mauro Silva, who were all players for the Brazilian national team; Barcelona had Stoichkov, Laudrup, Romario, Rivaldo and Ronaldo, who was already a star. In the Madrid teams were Simeone and Redondo who were also elite players…
—Who was the most difficult opponent you had to face?
—I was lucky to play against the Brazilians, who were fantastic. I remember that Bebeto scored me a great goal from a free kick in a game that tied us on the hour. He stopped me. On the other hand, with Ronaldo I was lucky that no one put me in, but he was unstoppable. In 1997, when he was at Barcelona, it was the best moment of his career, but there were a lot of figures in La Liga.
—What was that locker room like? You had to share the team with several Argentines…
—When I arrived I integrated very well into the group. They respected me and listened to me a lot. The Spanish made me feel like I wasn’t a foreigner. They themselves told me that he didn’t look like he was from outside. And with the Argentines we had a great relationship, because we shared the same customs. I was also with Mono Navarro Montoya in the 2000 season and with Tati Buljubasich. It was a team that opened the door to several…
—Was there room for inside jokes?
“There was time for everything. The soccer player during his prime lives concentrated and playing, but when he has a couple of hours of leisure he wants to do everything that he did not do during his entire career. It’s going everywhere, like when you have a dog in a cage and release it for the first time. He organizes his private parties some Monday, barbecues are organized at unconventional times, but everything is very healthy. And if he is away from his family, he still has more time for his parties.
—Who were the funniest of that group?
—There was everything. The most serious was (Juan Antonio) Pizzi and the most jodon, Latorre. There were also a lot of hotties: I was one of them (laughs). The Spanish were also party people. Singles, like Vivar Dorado, went out often.
—Are you aware of what they achieved there? In the 1996/97 season they reached the semifinals of the UEFA Cup (current Europa League), an unprecedented event for Tenerife…
—Sometimes I am aware of what was achieved, but other times I feel a certain unconsciousness. Personally, I understand that we leave a very big mark on the club, but sometimes I don’t keep that in mind. When I receive recognition from the club, such as the confidence to set up a Tenerife Academy in Argentina, or the calls made by journalists, they put the story back in my head. They were years of much effort and sacrifice. And every time I travel to Spain people recognize me. It is a huge gratitude that Madrid taxi drivers know who I am.
—Do you talk to your children about what that UEFA Cup was like, in which they had to be left out against Schalke 04 from Germany?
“My children were very young. I have 2 Argentines and 2 Spaniards and unfortunately they couldn’t see me. Today they have their father at home and it is normal for them to ask their father for photos or autographs. At first, Capable caught their attention, but later they normalized it by having me every day. It is strange for them that I am the idol of some fans, because they never saw me as the figure that I was in some teams.
—Is it true that you were close to playing for Real Madrid?
-Yes. It was when I had been called up by the Argentine team to go play in the Copa América. At that time, the newspapers and radio stations in Tenerife said that Heynckes wanted to take me to Real Madrid. He called me several times at the concentration in Bolivia and we had some nice talks. He would ask me how he was and how I was feeling, but then he didn’t tell me anything else.
—Was it a thorn in your career?
“It would have been incredible.” It was touching the sky with your hands. In the same way as the time I was about to join Barcelona, but it didn’t happen.
—What memories do you have of the Passarella Selection? Was he very strict? Kaiser?
-Nerd. The truth is that it did not seem strict to me. Yes she had a very respectful and respected personality. Tolo Gallego and Sabella were with him, and they had a great working group. They didn’t bother the football player. You could talk quietly and they were always very open.
—What was the reason for the elimination in the quarterfinals against Peru?
-I do not know. I understand that at that time Passarella was testing many players for the World Cup in France. Archers took several, but the truth is that I still don’t know what happened. Perhaps the height and the environment had an influence, because there were very good footballers. I don’t know what will have happened. I still can’t find an answer.
—Marcelo Gallardo was on that squad, was it perceived at that time what he could achieve as a coach?
“At the time, he didn’t talk much. He always got together with (Ariel) Ortega, because they shared the room. During the month and a half that I was with him, I noticed him very quiet and very calm. I was struck by everything he achieved later as a coach. At that time I didn’t even imagine that he was going to be the best coach in the country. He was very young, he hadn’t even gone to Europe, because he was still at River, where he had a fantastic career.
—And you had to fight for the position Nacho González, what did they tell you when they gave you the 10?
—Nacho it was very nice. Very good person. We got along very well. We loaded him because they had given him the 10 and we told him that he was like Maradona. In that group of archers was also Carlos Roa, who said that he was a vegetarian and ate almost nothing at dinner. So as with Nacho we always went out to buy cookies and alfajores to have in the room, he came Lettuce and he ate all our treats until one day we grabbed him and shitted him out. “Why don’t you come to eat us the chocolates and then you become the one who eats the vegetables!”, we would tell him as a joke.
—Did you dream of playing in the 1998 World Cup?
—I was very excited about going to the World Cup in France, because it so happens that we played an important game in Tenerife that had come to see me and Juanele, who was number 9, the coach of Spain, who was Xavier Clement. He noticed us because he wanted us for his team, but when they found out in Argentina they called me up immediately. Likewise, my dream was always to play for my country, and when they called me up for the Copa América I started to cry with emotion with my wife. The truth is that she hoped to be in the World Cup, but she didn’t touch me.
—Was that call for you not to play for Spain a prank by Julio Grondona?
-Without a doubt. He was on top of everything. Furthermore, in European competitions we were the only Spanish team that reached the UEFA semi-finals. Anything that happened in Tenerife was replicated everywhere, because the coaches of various national teams came to see us. We were on the agenda of all the media in the world.
—You also left a mark on Lanús…
-Yes. It was a team that was encouraged to fight the greats. We had Chupa López and Claudio Enría who flew. It was a group with very good players. A fantastic stage that served to form the foundations and take the club to where it is today. Beyond the titles that were achieved later, we took the first step. It is like with a child, who before running has to take his first steps.
—There you had Miguel Ángel Russo as a coach, are you still in contact with him?
“I haven’t talked to him in a while. I sent him a message when he was sick with illness, but I didn’t want to bother him too much. I simply expressed my support and affection.
—In the streets of Lanús something similar happens to what happens to you when you travel to Tenerife…
—Lanús is my home. When I walk down the street, people recognize me in the best way. I still don’t fall for what I left in the club. Last time they put me in a shortlist with Andrada and Marchesín and the fans voted me the best goalkeeper in the history of the institution. It is something wonderful. A mutual love that I feel with the people of Garnet.
—And at the end of your career you had to venture with Estudiantes, was there where you learned what the DNA of the Pincha?
—We already came with him. DNA Click, because he had already had Miguel (Russo) as technical director. He is like a kind of miniature Bilardo. It was a very nice six months. I don’t know if from football, because I got injured and had an accident; but at the group level it was one of the best teams that I integrated. There were Quatrocchi, Vasco Azconzábal, Agustín Alayes, Tecla Farías, Krupoviesa… they were barbarian boys
—that scraped enough…
—That’s just Students. If you don’t scrape you have to sit outside (laughs).
—After your retirement you also ventured into the technical direction, how was that process?
—I was in El Porvenir, in Sportivo Italiano and in Jáuregui directing in the Federal Tournament. It was a great campaign that unfortunately was cut short by the pandemic. I like directing, I have my coaching staff armed for when another opportunity comes.
—But today your focus is on attracting talent for Tenerife…
-It is a challenge. They called me from the island to look for young Argentine promises. Everything takes a process, because it is slow work. Argentina is not doing well economically and that is why everything costs much more; but it is a great project. If the boys realize the possibility they have of going to play in Europe without having to go through Boca or River they will start coming to the Academy. It’s a step, because at some point authorities from the club are going to come to see the boys play; and we are also going to set up a campus so that they can try them there. It’s a fantastic idea. If I were the father of one of the boys, I would be very excited, because it is a very big possibility. We are looking for young talents for men’s and women’s soccer aged 5 and up. One who is in football knows that when you reach the age of the Fifth Division, the hole in the funnel shrinks a lot and many are freed from the teams here because there is not room for everyone. And Tenerife is a good option for those who could not debut in Argentine clubs. The idea is to give those future players one more chance.
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