Rugby on Easter Sunday

Carlos the Argie Roar Guru

By Carlos the Argie, Carlos the Argie is a Roar Guru

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    My dad wasn’t an openly religious man. Like almost everything about him, he was private about his faith.

    He enrolled us in Catechism classes in the local Polish school but he rarely guided us in any path of faith. He would rarely ask us to go to church with him – with only one exception.

    For Easter Sunday, we all had to go. The entire family and there were no excuses or exceptions. Christmas was different. He didn’t feel the same need as he thought that Easter reflected the importance of faith.

    For Christmas, he would share with us the Polish custom of opłatek, which is the unblessed communion wafer.

    Easter service for the Polish community was pretty boring for a young boy. Older men would cry at the end while they sang hymns of their beloved Poland that they missed. Most were former WWII veterans that refused to return to a Communist country. And Argentina was so far away from Poland, geographically and culturally.

    So, for our family, six boys plus mom, it wasn’t terribly hard to follow my dad’s request. Dad was not much into sports, but mom was a passionate hockey player and felt that sports helped build character. She loved us playing rugby, even if two of my brothers went for field hockey like her. She was very happy about that.

    When we were younger, it was easy to accommodate church as most games were not played on Sundays or if they were, it was very early so making it to church on time was not a problem.

    But in 1976 things were different. I had been preselected for a junior team representing Buenos Aires the year before. This preselection was a very good sign for selection to the ‘Pumitas’ (Pumas under 18) that would be chosen in 1976. I had also changed clubs to Pueyrredon, where my high school coach and mentor was one of the founding members.

    Angel Guastella was also the Pumas coach and the club’s first team. ‘Papuchi’ had a strong word in everything dealing with rugby and being in his club with the possibility of continuing to be coached by him was a fantastic chance.

    The last warm up game before the season started was on Easter Sunday at 9:00 AM. That barely gave me time to play, a very quick shower and rush to the Church to catch my dad’s angry expression arriving probably a few minutes late.

    Clearly, my dad did not approve of me playing, but my mom talked to him and encouraged me to play and get back as soon as possible. She knew what both things meant to dad and me. The week of Easter rained torrentially almost every day.

    We arrived to the club and were told that we couldn’t use the Number 1 playing field as we would ruin it for the season. So we were told to play in the practice pitch, a mud pile under the best of circumstances but now given the copious rain, it was almost impossible.

    Surprisingly, Guastella agreed to referee our ‘friendly’ game, under the rain, and wearing long Adidas active pants and top.

    The whole game was awful due to the weather and the slippery leather ball made any play an adventure. Everything else was rather predictable. Except, in the last minute of the game, the opposing team kicks a ball behind our replacement left wing. He is supposed to dive on it but panics.

    I dive on the ball and the attacking player, attempting to kick the ball has the misfortune of tangling with my arms, breaking my right arm and dislocating my right elbow. This wasn’t good. They took me to the shower to get rid of all the mud covering my body.

    Cut the rugby shirt and put my arm in a sling and drove me to the British Hospital, where we had health coverage. The hospital was more than one hour away from the club. Needless to say, I didn’t make it to Church on time.

    The orthopedic surgeon didn’t come to the hospital until many hours later, and it was probably around 4 or 5PM when my elbow was back in place and my arm in a cast. My dear friend Rafael, who came with me to the hospital called home from the hospital’s public phone and my dad answered at home:

    Rafael: Hi Mr S! This is Rafael. I am at the British Hospital with Charlie. He is OK…

    Dad: Click (he hangs up)

    Mom at home: What was that?

    Dad: Your son is in the hospital.

    Mom: What?!!!

    Rafael dials home again and my mother answers.

    Rafael: Hi, this is Rafael…

    Mom: Where are you? What is going on?

    Rafael explains the situation and my mom agrees to go pick me up at the hospital. Mom arrives around one hour later with dad who wouldn’t say a word to me. He refused to speak with me for close to one month, mumbling once that God had some idea of what happened if you missed Easter Mass.

    My dad has left us many years ago. His luck had finally run out. Being born in poverty in Poland, surviving the camps in Siberia, the battles of WWII, but eventually disease got him.

    We made peace, of course. But now, every Easter I think even more of him and when I see rugby for that day I take a moment to pause, catch myself shedding a tear and deciding that this is not a day for me for rugby.

    I can now watch the game later. I go to Church and think of him.

    I never made it to the Pumitas that year. The recovery was slow and I had a lot of issues to deal with as a result of the serious injury. It took me a very long time to recover my confidence.

    Wesołych Świąt Wielkanocnych, tatusz!
    [That’s Happy Easter in Polish]

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    The Crowd Says (25)

    • April 18th 2017 @ 5:23am
      The Rower said | April 18th 2017 @ 5:23am | ! Report

      Thanks for your personal thought on what Easter means to you. It seems to me that we should all take some time for personal reflection otherwise we let other decide for us what our thought and ambitions are.

    • April 18th 2017 @ 8:11am
      Tony H said | April 18th 2017 @ 8:11am | ! Report

      Great article Carlos! Thanks for sharing!

    • Roar Guru

      April 18th 2017 @ 8:23am
      sheek said | April 18th 2017 @ 8:23am | ! Report

      Carlos,

      I’m not overly religious either. I don’t go to church every Sunday. In fact, Xmas Eve & Easter Sunday are just about it.

      But there was a good article in the SMH the other day bemoaning the intrusion of sport on religious days. Even Christmas Day is now under attack from the sports junkies.

      The “I want, I want, I want” in today’s society is not willing to even make the smallest sacrifice of fore-going sport for one day or two days.

      Easter is about sacrifice. But that’s a word fewer & fewer people know the meaning of or even care about.

      By the way, my sister’s partner is Australian born to Polish refugees. I find them generally to be very true & loyal people.

      • Roar Guru

        April 18th 2017 @ 8:43am
        Carlos the Argie said | April 18th 2017 @ 8:43am | ! Report

        Thanks to all of you.

        I should have added a picture of my dad, proudly wearing his medals, ready to march on ANZAC day in Sydney a few years ago.

        Maybe the editor would let me know how to add this.

    • Roar Guru

      April 18th 2017 @ 9:17am
      Machooka said | April 18th 2017 @ 9:17am | ! Report

      Charming recollections Carlos… and for you, no doubt, it would probably feel like only yesterday eh!

      I like to think sometimes that rugby is life, life is rugby but it ain’t always the way. And also having been brought-up in a Catholic environment I can strongly relate to your story.

      I too came from a large family (very Catholic back in the day) and likewise my father, here in Aussie, was similarly a fish outta water, a bit like your Dad, having born in Tanganyika (East Africa). And later, in his teens, being moved to Sth Africa where he was schooled in Port Elizabeth at a Nautical College.

      When my father finally met my mother (she was very much Aussie as her family were long time sheep people) they settled here in Aussie where we all grew-up in Sydney. But funnily enough as my Dad wasn’t Catholic like my Mum, like your Mom, she was the driving force behind us being very much involved in all sports when we where young lads.

      I have clear, albeit fond memories of the doing the Mass thing early on a Sunday morns, and then after hurriedly changing into our footie gear while being driven to the local football field. I remember it was always madness as we alighted the car, half dressed, forgetting this or that, but always managing to get our fill of footie.

      Just quickly to finish up as I’m rabbiting on, I got a phone call years later from my father, when I was in my early 30s with my own children, to say he had decided to become a Catholic. Like wtf!?!

      Yep, he had decided that if you can’t beat ’em… join ’em 🙂

      • Roar Guru

        April 18th 2017 @ 10:04am
        Carlos the Argie said | April 18th 2017 @ 10:04am | ! Report

        When my dad decided to marry mom, he asked the priest for approval. My mom is Protestant. The priest agreed with one condition. All the children had to be Catholic. As mom will argue for the sake of it, she fought the priest and finally they agreed that boys would be Catholic and girls would be Protestant.

        After the sixth boy the priest told mom God was Catholic….

        • April 18th 2017 @ 10:09am
          jeff dustby said | April 18th 2017 @ 10:09am | ! Report

          wouldnt the children be the religion that they choose to be?

        • Roar Guru

          April 18th 2017 @ 10:29am
          Machooka said | April 18th 2017 @ 10:29am | ! Report

          🙂 🙂

    • Roar Guru

      April 18th 2017 @ 9:49am
      Harry Jones said | April 18th 2017 @ 9:49am | ! Report

      Thank you, Carlos!

      Now it means more to me that you once condemned me to Hell…

      Hahaha!!!!

      • Roar Guru

        April 18th 2017 @ 10:24am
        Harry Jones said | April 18th 2017 @ 10:24am | ! Report

        Poignant story, my friend. Well told.

        • April 18th 2017 @ 10:55am
          Carlos the Argies said | April 18th 2017 @ 10:55am | ! Report

          Thank you, Harry.

    • April 18th 2017 @ 3:05pm
      DavSA said | April 18th 2017 @ 3:05pm | ! Report

      Lovely story . My first exposure to Argentina rugby was 3 years prior to your BA selection when San Isidro toured SA. I was dying to see them as we had heard all about this famous Bajada scrum. It did not disappoint. They summed very low , unusual in those days and San Isidro destroyed the Eastern Transvaal pack scrum time who were the previous seasons currie cup finalists..I have always loved their rugby since. ……… An interesting aside to this was prior to the game i was standing in line to pay entrance near the grandstand when Bok legend Jan Ellis and his mates jumped Que and he virtually insisted on free entrance. He was told right in front of me to stand in line and pay like everyone else. …. On your article i truly never see SA supporters accepting game on religious days. Thanks mate.

      • Roar Guru

        April 19th 2017 @ 3:31am
        Carlos the Argie said | April 19th 2017 @ 3:31am | ! Report

        Hi DavSA!

        Which San Isidro team was it? There is CASI (Club Atletico San Isidro) where the Travaglini’s played as well as Pichot’s club and also San Isidro Club, SIC, who were the actual implementers of the bajada. They also had a huge number of Pumas playing for them.

        CASI are called the “zebras” as their shirt is black and white stripes (like the BaaBas) while SIC is narrow blue, slightly wider black stripes on a white background. SIC are called the “ditchers” (zanjeros) as their club is in a low area that occasionally gets flooded.

        • April 19th 2017 @ 4:31pm
          davSA said | April 19th 2017 @ 4:31pm | ! Report

          Carlos I didn’t even know there was more than one team . That’s what I so enjoy about this site , I am constantly learning more about the sport .

          I should have added that during that game I mentioned , a cross kick was put onto the Argentinian wing who under pressure jumped and headed the ball into touch. The crowd gasped . This we had never seen before on a rugby field. It sticks in my memory. Not sure what the linesman thought about it.

          • Roar Guru

            April 20th 2017 @ 1:07am
            Carlos the Argie said | April 20th 2017 @ 1:07am | ! Report

            Ah! That play was first used, if I remember correctly, by Martin Sansot. He did this in a test match against the ABs in 1976 (memory fades me). He had used it in Argentina before…

            I asked Izzy Dagg in Chicago last year if after giving a try with a chest bump (remember the play in the RC where he lost it in the lights and hit his chest for Romano to score?) he would try a “header” pass into the open field. It is not a knock on and as long as the receiver is behind the guy heading the ball it is not an off sides play. Izzy laughed.

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