Backlash grows over Pumas’ Maradona tribute

Rugby

The fallout over the Argentina rugby team’s much-criticised tribute to Diego Maradona extended further on Tuesday, with some Argentines saying they will boycott the side because of what they consider an inadequate homage to the late football icon.

The Pumas, as the rugby team are known, wore what looked like black electrical tape as armbands in their Tri Nations Test loss to New Zealand on Saturday, and many Argentines felt their tribute paled in comparison to the All Blacks’.

Before performing the traditional pre-match haka, the New Zealanders laid their famous black jersey with the name ‘Maradona’ and the No. 10 on the centre spot.

“People have taken note,” Nery Pumpido, Argentina’s goalkeeper alongside Maradona in the 1986 World Cup-winning side, told the Sol radio station.

“[The Pumas] really got it wrong.”

“I am never going to watch a game of theirs again.”

Maradona, who died on Wednesday at the age of 60, led Argentina to World Cup glory in 1986 and was also adored in Italy for taking Napoli to two Serie A titles.

“We know that the tribute we chose to make to Diego at the weekend caused some pain and disappointed a lot of people,” Pumas captain Pablo Matera said in a recorded message alongside the whole squad.

“We want everyone to know that Diego is a super-important person for this team.”

The backlash came a day after years-old social media comments were unearthed to the embarrassment of three of the Pumas players, including Matera.

The Argentine Rugby Union said in a statement on Tuesday that Matera, Guido Petti and Santiago Socino had published “discriminatory and xenophobic comments” on social media between 2011 and 2013.

When the posts came to light, Matera was stripped of the captaincy and all three were suspended pending an investigation.

The trio apologised for their language but the image of the Pumas, who beat three-time Rugby World Cup champions New Zealand for the first time last month, was badly damaged.

The scandal comes four days before the Pumas’ final match in the 2020 Tri-Nations Series against Australia.

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