December 9, 2013
Something to be applauded
For some years now, the international rugby community has been looking at our rugby in awe. The strength of our club system is always talked about with the highest regard; the passion that moves so many to work in our game for the fun of it is something that is applauded.
Those who have played the game have a sense of debt towards those who were so influential in their lives. In our clubs, the relationship between technical and moral preparation is very strong; coaches not only become rugby teachers, they are also educators. Most of those who have played rugby then feel they must repay all that passion and love they got from so many who have coached them.
Those players who have had to move overseas in search of a professional rugby contract might leave a club physically, but they never stop belonging. All, or the big majority of them, have been in constant touch, ensuring they can share what they’ve learnt. I remember a lock in my club that was sent the lineout practices for him to provide an input from England.
Many, when in Argentina, make the club their second stop after visiting the family. And in every case, they will ensure they are available to help out as much as they possibly can.
The list of players who have returned to the clubs that helped them become what they were, is huge. Lucas Borges still plays for Pucará, former Puma captain Lisandro Arbizu, Gonzalo Quesada, Hernán Senillosa, to name a handful played for their clubs after a professional career.
On Saturday, a week after retiring as the Pumas recordman and five months after finishing his professional contract, Felipe Contepomi was able to again don the maroon jersey, white shorts and green socks of his club Newman. Immediately after returning from pro rugby he was training at the club with kids he didn’t know, who were too young when he left in 2000 or were the sons of former team-mates.
Despite this huge generational gap, at 36, Contepomi told me as he was approaching his last-ever test that “I want to repay Newman for all that they did for me.”
He played 20 minutes on Saturday, in the quarter-finals of the Buenos Aires RU tournament. As soon as he walked onto the field, the Newman fans went ecstatic. Belgrano Athletic was not so warm. A punch in the face, a few insults and a handful of skirmishes plus being abused as he walked off the field was not the kind of return to his colours he had dreamt for so long. “In this scenario, I am not too sure if I want to continue playing next year.”
If that is the case, then the local rugby scene would miss the opportunity to enjoy for another season one of the greats of our game. Felipe Contepomi only wanted to play for his club, the one which rounded him as a player and a person. Hopefully, future opponents will find the way to control his many talents within the rules.