Homecoming Pumas get presidential welcome
October 24, 2007
Argentina's bronze final-winning squad from the 2007 World Cup were feted by the country's current and possible future president on the team's return to Buenos Aires on Tuesday.
Amid continued speculation that the Pumas may be invited into either the Tri Nations or Six Nations competitions - though not until 2010 at the soonest - captain Agustin Pichot and his squad were received by President Nestor Kirchner and First Lady and presidential candidate, Senator Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.
Pichot presented the two hosts with a Pumas jersey signed by the squad which beat France 34-10 in the third place play-off at Parc des Princes in Paris last Friday night.
Earlier a press conference at the Pan American hotel was led by Pichot, Marcelo Loffreda - the coach soon to join Leicester Tigers - Daniel Baetti (technical assistant), vice-captain Gonzalo Longo, hooker Mario Ledesma and Jose Luis Rolandi (manager).
"Winning the opening match surprised everyone else but it was something the whole squad had worked for," Loffreda reflected.
Pichot intends to play one more match for Argentina on home soil - probably next June - before retiring.
Cristina Fernandez, 54, is tipped to become the country's next president in Sunday's elections.
But sporting stars are often held in greater reverence in the cities and on the pampas of the economically and socially troubled Argentina.
"It was flattering to be compared with the greatest idol of Argentina (Diego Maradona)," said fly-half Juan Martin Hernandez. "It seems to me that it was a simple coincidence that we both wore the No 10 shirt and that I put over drop goals with my left foot."
The Pumas and the Argentina Rugby Union (UAR) thanked all those who sent emails of support to firstname.lastname@example.org, describing it as "a real success".
The UAR said messages were received "from every corner of the country to the most inhospitable places on earth", including every Argentina province, South America, Europe, Oceania, Asia, Africa and North America.
"For more than 50 days, the inbox was filled day after day, where there were received over 3500 mails expressing unconditional support to Los Pumas and congratulating the players on their achievements."