Two days after being disciplined, Pablo Matera has been reinstated as Argentina’s rugby captain and, along with teammates Guido Petti and Santiago Socino, had his suspension from the squad lifted following an investigation into “discriminatory and xenophobic” social media posts dating from between 2011 and 2013.
The trio were suspended on Tuesday for the derogatory posts that included remarks directed at Bolivian and Paraguayan domestic staff, women, Black people and insults about religion.
However, the Argentine Rugby Union (UAR) announced on Thursday that the players’ apologies and good behavior in the intervening years meant these punishments were now “unnecessary.”
“During the statement, the three players expressed their deep regret, reiterated the apology, ratified that it is not what they think and that it was a reckless act typical of immaturity,” the UAR said in a statement. “However, they take full charge and responsibility.
“The Disciplinary Committee has considered and valued the attitude of the three players during this process, and understands that they have not repeated similar actions during these more than eight years, and that they have shown during this time to be people of firm and upright values and worthy of being part of our team.
“The disciplinary process continues and the Commission will reach a final resolution in the next few days according to the procedure times, in this first instance it considers that the maintenance of preventive measures is unnecessary, for which it resolves to lift the suspension of the three players and restore the captaincy of Pablo Matera.”
The derogatory posts surfaced after the Pumas were criticized for not doing enough to pay tribute to Diego Maradona during their match against New Zealand following the death of the Argentine football great last week.
In a video posted by the Pumas on Twitter, Matera apologized that the team’s tribute — which, according to Argentine newspaper Clarín, amounted to wearing black ribbon on their shirt sleeves — “caused disappointment.”
Head coach Mario Ledesma told a press conference in Sydney that the trio would not be in the squad for Saturday’s test against Australia after the players had received “lot of hate” during the week.
“All I can say about these three fine players and great men is that they are great human beings,” said Ledesma, per Reuters.
“They have been suffering a lot this week, their families have been suffering a lot this week, and it’s really sad to see. Obviously they acknowledge what they did and they are really regretful and ashamed of what they did, and we all are.”
“It would be inappropriate to comment while the UAR undertakes its investigations,” a World Rugby spokesperson told CNN.
Matera plays club rugby for Stade Francais and in a statement on its website, the Parisian team said the Argentina captain “has always been irreproachable in his attitude towards his teammates and opponents, both on and off the field.”
“Upon his return from selection, the player, who has already publicly apologized, will be summoned by the club’s management,” added Stade Francais.
Matera’s social media posts from between 2011 and 2013 have attracted criticism from one South American sporting great.
“Mr. Pablo Matera, Bolivians and Paraguayans are honest, hard-working people, but not racist. You do a lot of damage to rugby and to your beautiful country, you have not won anything,” tweeted former Paraguay international goalkeeper Jose Luis Chilavert on December 1.
“Mr. Pablo Matera, you damaged rugby and rugby did not polish you. Respect Bolivians and Paraguayans … I was only three times the best goalkeeper in the world. Proud to be Paraguayan.”