The words he shared on the most public global forum were his feelings and his beliefs. They were not an error in judgment on the rugby field,or taking the tackle when he should have passed. Photo: Reuters
The words he shared on the most public global forum were his feelings and his beliefs. They were not an error in judgment on the rugby field,or taking the tackle when he should have passed. Photo: Reuters

Argentina rugby captain Pablo Matera is a hero no more

By Mark Keohane, Opinion Time of article published Dec 5, 2020

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CAPE TOWN - The tweets posted between 2011 and 2013 by current Argentina rugby captain Pablo Matera were vile.

Matera, who was in South Africa at the time, boasted about getting in a car and driving over blacks.

He disparaged Bolivians and Paraguayans, describing them as “negroes” because of his belief that they were all criminals and badly educated people and, if so, then they had to be “negro”.

Matera was 20 years old when he wrote these posts.

‘SOUTH AFRICA baby! I’m finally leaving this country full of blacks ouch“, read one tweet.

Another screamed: “Today is a good day to get in the car and drive over blacks.”

When the tweets resurfaced in the Argentinean media this week, the Argentine Rugby bosses immediately stripped Matera of his captaincy, suspended him from Saturday’s Test against Australia and declared an investigation.

Two other Pumas players were suspended because of tweets that related to discrimination and xenophobia.

Matera, who famously led the Pumas to a first victory against the All Blacks a fortnight ago, apologised on Instagram, saying he was sorry to everyone who was offended by the “barbarisms”, and that he would take responsibility for what he wrote. How?

His teammates objected to his suspension and threatened to strike if he and his two teammates were not reinstated as captain and teammates respectively.

A day after the Pumas bosses publicly condemned any instance of “hate speech” and apparently considered it “unacceptable that anyone expressing those views would represent our country”, Matera is once again available to lead the Pumas.

The reaction in South Africa on rugby social media platforms has been particularly insane, given how much support there has been for Matera and how his hate speech, discrimination and racism has been excused as the supposed “ramblings” of a 20-year-old and a “mistake” made seven years ago.

“Forgive and forget” has been a common theme, along with the question of what did he actually do wrong?

Reading the reaction was sad because of how ingrained the prejudice remains in our country when it comes to not actually seeing the wrong in what Matera wrote.

The words he shared on the most public global forum were his feelings and his beliefs.

They were not an error in judgment on the rugby field, taking the tackle when he should have passed, missing a tackle when he should have made one, giving away a penalty when he should have been more disciplined.

Matera did not make a mistake when he told the world, unsolicited and in his own words, that he wanted to get in a car and drive over blacks.

He wanted to kill blacks in South Africa and couldn’t wait to leave South Africa because of the blacks in South Africa.

That isn’t the mistake of a naïve youth. That is a public declaration of war. He should never be allowed back in South Africa, captain or no captain of the Pumas.

Matera, in his apology this week, wrote that “at that moment I could never imagine who I would become”, which is the captain of the Argentina national rugby team.

What he doesn’t apologise for is what he was when he felt it natural to want to kill blacks in South Africa.

He doesn’t address, or even attempt to explain what, at the age of 20, made it so comfortable for him to so easily share his hatred of blacks, Bolivians and anyone from Paraguay.

What has changed in his thinking, why has it changed and what is he doing to lead the fight against discrimination, xenophobia and racism?

Matera’s response didn’t address anything, and his reinstatement a day after his suspension, equally addressed nothing in the fight against racism and discrimination.

@mark_keohane

IOL Sport

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