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Che in scrum cap

It is always interesting to remember historically which famous and infamous people played rugby. In the USA, we list three Kennedys (Joe Jr. and Ted at Harvard, and John Jr. at Brown), George W. Bush at Yale, Kris Kristofferson at Claremont, Joe Biden at Syracuse Law School, and some claim Bill Clinton played for his college at Oxford during the Rhodes scholarship year. Let’s also add Mark Cuban at Indiana.

But, perhaps, the most curious rugger history belongs to Ernesto “Che” Guevara, the revolutionary from Argentina. Not only was he an avid player, he also founded a rugby magazine in Buenos Aires called Tackle, publishing eleven issues in May and June 1951.

Young Guevara was asthmatic, and the well-do-do family sent him to Cordoba, Argentina, a more salubrious climate with fresher air. Here, he played for Estudiantes de Cordoba at inside center in his teen age years. Every twenty-minutes, he had to run to the sidelines to use his inhaler. Probably, for vanity’s sake, he wore a scrum cap as a back and wing.

When he returned to Buenos Aires to study medicine, he played rugby for three local XVs, Atalaya Polo Club, Ypora, and SIC in San Isidro. (Go to You Tube and type “Che Guevara and Rugby” to see a short  Italian film with old Argentinian rugby footage).

By all accounts, Che enjoyed the playing and the ambiance of the sport. His companion on the famous motor cycle trip through South America (Made into a 2014 film entitled, The Motorcycle Diaries) was fellow rugger Alberto Granado, also a doctor.

In one of the later issues of Tackle, he penned a critique of social inequality in the country’s rugby community, which resulted in a visit from the authorities. To avoid further hassles, he and Granado set out on their historic trek, a voyage that changed him from doctor to full-time revolutionary.

 

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Alberto Granado continued his support of rugby in Cuba -- where he had established a hospital. He died 2 (?)years ago in Cuba, still supporting Cuban rugby.
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