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'Great men': Argentina lift rugby suspensions over racist tweets

The U-turn comes after a player strike was mooted.

Pablo Matera of the Pumas goes up for the ball during the Tri-Nations games against the Wallabies last month.
Pablo Matera of the Pumas goes up for the ball during the Tri-Nations games against the Wallabies last month.
Image: Speed Media

ARGENTINA’S RUGBY UNION lifted the interim suspensions of skipper Pablo Matera and two other players for racist tweets today, in a shock U-turn just two days after calling the posts “unacceptable”.

Coach Mario Ledesma hailed Matera as a “great human being” despite the tweets, which date back several years and were described as “discriminatory” and “xenophobic” by the rugby union.

The volte-face followed reports that Argentina’s players had threatened to strike over the suspensions of flanker Matera, second row Guido Petti and replacement hooker Santiago Socino.

All three players were left out of the team to play Australia in the final Tri Nations game in Sydney on Saturday. But Ledesma made clear they would be back.

“They reached an agreement with the union about not playing this game but what I can say is they are three fine players and great men, they are great human beings,” he said on a Zoom call.

“They’ve been suffering a lot this week, their families have suffered a lot this week. It’s really sad to see.”

Asked if Matera would resume the captaincy, he replied: “Exactly right. Pablo won’t be playing this game but he is still the captain.”

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Jeronimo de la Fuente was handed the skipper’s armband for Saturday’s match, with sweeping changes to the Pumas team after their 38-0 thrashing by New Zealand last week.

Matera, 27, had earlier said he was “deeply ashamed” of the tweets, posted between 2011-2013 and since deleted, including one where he spoke of “running over blacks” with his car.

Petti referred to his domestic worker as a “primate” and spoke of “blacks” stealing mobile phones and wallets.

The posts resurfaced after criticism that the Pumas did not adequately pay tribute to Argentina football icon Diego Maradona, who died last week, before Saturday’s defeat by the All Blacks.

© – AFP, 2020

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