In 1999 I was on a train from Paddington to Cardiff to watch the first match of the Rugby World Cup, Wales against Argentina.
The train was packed with fans going to see the game. I was wearing a Pumas shirt. During the trip a TV camera crew walked by the coach in which I was sitting and started interviewing different people.
When they saw I was wearing a Pumas shirt they came to me and asked me if I spoke English, to which I replied I did. I was the only Argie on that coach. They asked me some trivial things about Argentina and then they asked me what my opinion was of the most important try Argentine rugby had scored.
I thought for a second and was ready to say Marcelo Pascual’s try against the Junior Springboks in 1965. That is the classic try of the birth of the Pumas. But I didn’t.
I said it was Marcelo Campo’s try against England at Twickenham in 1978.
Hugo Porta played quickly a penalty that was likely to be kicked at goal, and he ran sideways before finding Marcelo coming at speed. He passed him the ball. Marcelo took off and when confronted by two English defenders dove over them and scored that memorable try. Argentina drew in that game.
I will never know if they showed the interview clip on TV.
In 2007 I was dating the woman who became my wife and invited her to the Rugby World Cup. We watched a game in Cardiff on Saturday, and on Sunday we took the train to Paris to watch Argentina-Scotland. She absolutely loves sport and fell madly in love with rugby and rugby people, primarily helped by the experience of that trip.
We sat down at Stade de France, both wearing Pumas shirts but speaking English. She is American. We were in an area reserved for Argentines. After a few minutes the guy sitting next to my missus turned to me and said in Spanish that he knew me, he was sure of it.
I didn’t recognise him at first, but it was Marcelo Campo. I had not seen him since late 1982, but he remembered me. My wife asked me who he was, and I said he was one of the great Pumas players. A winger.
Not many of the people around us recognised Marcelo. I told them of the England try and everyone got excited. Sadly I didn’t take a picture that day. It was typical Marcelo to remember and say hello.
Maybe I saw Marcelo once or twice when I got back to Argentina after that. I was surprised he recognised me after 25 years. But this is Marcelo – more than a very nice person, he was a gentleman.
He was also a great Puma. He came to my club in 1979 when his old club, Old Georgians, disbanded. He was only one year older than me but was already very mature. He was strong and fast when most wingers were primarily fast only. He was a strong tackler, a strong runner and a great technique.
My club at the time had a few Pumas, among them the great fullback Martin Sansot and the scrum half Ricardo Landajo, father of Martin Landajo. So we were used to having Pumas around us in practice. But Marcelo was special. He was very down to earth, very humble, always with a smile and would talk to anyone. Even though I was a second-team player Marcelo had no problem speaking to me or to anyone else as if you were just good friends. He had no airs.
Marcelo played 26 times for the Pumas – not so many Test matches by today’s standards, but it was a lot in that era. He always played fantastically. After retirement Marcelo stayed involved and contributed a lot to the Fundacion de la Union Argentina de Rugby, a foundation of rugby players who suffered devastating injuries, such as spinal cord injuries.
Marcelo passed away this weekend in Uruguay, where he lived, of a heart attack. A friend, not only a great rugby player, passed away this weekend. It is extraordinary the impact his attitude and personality had on so many people. A Puma until the end.
He likely dove over the Pearly Gates the same way he did at Twickenham to join his friends waiting for another game in heaven.
Though I haven’t seen him much over the last 40 years, he was still my friend, and he will beforever.