A view of racism in sports

Carlos the Argie Roar Guru

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

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    Jorge Wittman, ‘Witty’, was a fabulous number 7 and 8 for Pueyrredon, my club, and played for the Pumas from 1971 through 1973.

    Witty is a charming man. He was tall, handsome and had this feline way of moving on the field that would probably get a lyrical article if I was Harry Jones. But I am not.

    Witty went to St Andrew’s Scots School in Buenos Aires and now lives in the USA.

    He recently reminisced about his first trip with the Pumas. Here is his story:

    In 1971, I travelled to South Africa with the Pumas, at a time when the pressure was escalating on the nation’s government to ease up on apartheid and be more understanding of the country’s 80 per cent black population.

    As the tour progressed, the Pumas needed more height in the back of the lineouts, so I got my chance to play my first international rugby game for my country. All players were given two tickets for anyone we wished to invite to see the game in lovely Durban. While strolling on the beach in our uniform, I ran into two young South Africans passing a ball around.

    I stopped and asked them if they’d like to come see our game. Not only were they excited at getting two free tickets, they said they’d root for Argentina.

    That struck me as weird, so I asked, “Why?”

    “Because we hate those all-white rugby teams.”

    That’s when I noticed they were mixed race youngsters.

    Then, with a frown, they gave me back the tickets because they noticed they were ‘white only’. We said our goodbyes, as one yelled: “Beat them good!”

    When we arrived at the stadium, there must have been 20,000 fans cheering for the Durban select all-white side. In one far-off corner, where the stadium had been purposely ‘not built’, lay a small patch of grass and dirt with maybe 50 black youngsters yelling “Pumas, Pumas” while waving Argentine flags.

    Our captain, Hector Silva, instructed us as a team to run over across the field to salute our few fans. They went wild! For a moment, I thought that sports had broken the colour barrier and I was part of it.

    But reality hit when far too many Pumas started mouthing off about their racist biases after the game. When confronted, they said they hated the “Cabecitas Negras” back in home in Argentina too.

    Little did I know then, but Nelson Mandela was in jail and spent 27 years rotting inside an apartheid prison. Yet someday he would be president!

    The Pumas have evolved and now play Fiji, Samoa and other wonderful teams that are not predominantly white, but deserve even more of our respect for what they’ve had to go through in life.

    It’s not one’s race that counts, it’s the opportunity we are given that does.

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    The Crowd Says (7)

    • February 24th 2018 @ 4:47am
      Terry Tavita said | February 24th 2018 @ 4:47am | ! Report

      good read, brief first-hand insightful piece..esp. the argentinean part of it..we all have some idea of how rugby in SA was under apartheid rule..

      • Roar Guru

        February 24th 2018 @ 8:58am
        Carlos the Argie said | February 24th 2018 @ 8:58am | ! Report

        One of the sad things about my country is this veiled racism. Still, to this day, many would not admit it. But, I think that society overall is moving away from it.

    • February 24th 2018 @ 8:54am
      DavSA said | February 24th 2018 @ 8:54am | ! Report

      Thanks Carlos. I well remember how teams like the… well…The South American Jaguares ( Hugo Porta etc, ) who used to tour here as an Argentinian team in disguise as a means of circumventing the international sport boycott . I well remember too how the New Zealand Cavaliers toured here explicitly to do the same thing. In cricket we had rebel Aussie , English and West Indian teams all doing the same thing. As a white South African I literally grew up thinking that Apartheid was totally normal. It was an experiential process over years that eroded me emotionally . Today South Africa whatever problems it may present to the world is racially , culturally and religion wise .. One of the most tolerant countries on earth. If I had to pin that to any single person it would without a question of doubt be Nelson Mandela, Couldn’t much of the world benefit from a few more of him today.?

    • Roar Guru

      February 24th 2018 @ 8:11pm
      Kia Kaha said | February 24th 2018 @ 8:11pm | ! Report

      Gracias, Carlos.

      Quite envious you got to experience the emotions of representing your country.

      Sad, though, when your fellow countrymen show the uglier side of human nature.

      An important lesson: we are what we both say and do even though the latter ostensibly is more in the public eye. At least in 1971. Not the case now.

      • Roar Guru

        February 25th 2018 @ 8:16am
        Carlos the Argie said | February 25th 2018 @ 8:16am | ! Report


        It wasn’t me. It was Witty’s experience in South Africa and Argentina.

        • Roar Guru

          February 25th 2018 @ 10:08am
          Kia Kaha said | February 25th 2018 @ 10:08am | ! Report

          Haha someone should’ve had a stronger coffee this morning. ?

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