Disgraced former Argentina skipper Pablo Matera will have to live with his ‘appalling’ language forever, says Will Greenwood, encouraging the Puma to now become a champion for diversity and equality.
On Tuesday, the Argentine Rugby Union (UAR) confirmed Matera had been stripped of the Argentina captaincy and suspended along with team-mates Guido Petti and Santiago Socino for posting racist and xenophobic comments on social media between 2011 and 2013.
The scandal has thrown the Argentina camp into crisis days before their final Tri-Nations match against Australia in Sydney on Saturday.
Former England and British and Irish Lions centre Greenwood lavished Matera’s performances for the Pumas over the last month, after the back-row’s brilliant performance in leading his team to their historic 25-15 win over the All Blacks in Sydney.
Greenwood was quick to condemn Matera’s historic Tweets on Tuesday, however, after a series of racist, derogatory and xenophobic posts came to light, while also questioning how Matera became captain in the first place.
“Just appalling language,” Greenwood said.
“I have the teamsheet in front of me, he was 27-years-old at the weekend, which means he was 19-years-old when these Tweets were going out, fully aware and a grown adult.
“It’s just appalling, appalling language.
“One part of me goes: Well done Argentina Rugby, for stripping the captaincy immediately. The other part of me goes: How was Pablo Matera ever skipper having that against his name and record?
“It’s a really sad and dark couple of days for rugby.”
When suggested by Sky Sports Rugby’s Rupert Cox that a player who had been internally reprimanded for racist social media posts – as Matera was reportedly in 2013 – would never have been able to become captain of England, Greenwood concurred.
“No [it wouldn’t happen with England], it would be a long journey of rehabilitation to be able to get yourself back into the team full-stop, never mind have the ambassadorial role to be captain,” Greenwood said.
“You can go round the houses all you want, but it’s just incredulous language to use, in any century, never mind what’s going on now.
“I’m assuming there’s been some sort of remorse.
“What he can do now is become an advocate, ambassador, champion for diversity and equality.
“It’s one of those ones where, as the quote says, you can’t communicate yourself out of a situation you behaved yourself into.
“He’s put himself in a really low spot there and only though graft and application, words, work, remorse, contrition and actually getting out there and making a difference, can he go any way towards full reintegration at the highest level.
“He’ll play again for Argentina, there’s no question about that. He will be back on a rugby field, but those words will be part of his fabric and history ad infinitum.”
On Tuesday, the UAR said its board had met urgently after revelations of the players’ “discriminatory” posts between 2011 and 2013.
“The Argentine Rugby Union strongly repudiates the discriminatory and xenophobic comments published by members of the Los Pumas squad on social networks,” the UAR said in a statement.
“Although the messages were expressed between 2011 and 2013, the Argentine Rugby Union condemns any expression of hatred and we consider it unacceptable that those who express them represent our country.”
The UAR said it had requested Pumas staff propose a new captain to the board and have the players stood down pending a “disciplinary process”.
The players’ social media accounts were closed on Tuesday but screenshots of past posts which disparaged black people and people from other South American nations circulated widely.
Argentine media published screenshots of apologies posted on social media by the three players.
“I am very ashamed,” Matera said. “Sorry to all those who were offended by the barbarities that I wrote. At that time I never imagined who I was going to become. Today I have to own what I said nine years ago.
“I apologise also to my family and my team for what they are going through because of my actions and thanks to the people who love me for their support.”
Following Saturday’s 38-0 defeat by New Zealand, Matera had already apologised to fans in a video posted on the Pumas’ Twitter account after the players were criticised for not doing enough to pay tribute to soccer icon Diego Maradona, who died last week.
A team spokesman said the Pumas had cancelled all media activities on Tuesday.
Pablo Matera’s racist and xenophobic tweets
20 October, 2011 – ‘Hatred of Bolivians and Paraguayans etc is born from that maid who once lost a hair in your food.’
5 March, 2012 – ‘The fat woman is staring at me hahaha poor fat woman I am not giving up my seat, that’s not pregnancy. that doesn’t count.’
24 April 2012 – ‘Bolivian man carries mp3 with ipod headphones. Sufficient evidence to imprison him for theft and loss of it.’
3 May, 2012 – ‘Nice morning to go out in the car and run over blacks.’
30 May, 2012 – ‘South Africa baby! I’m finally leaving this country full of blacks. OUCH!!’