By NZ Herald

The Pumas believe historical offensive tweets by captain Pablo Matera were resurfaced by Argentina fans to sabotage the team because of a perceived lack of respect for the late Diego Maradona, according to a report.

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The Argentina Rugby Union released a statement yesterday revealing that Matera was sacked as team captain and suspended – along with teammates Guido Petti and Santiago Socino – after “discriminatory and xenophobic” social media posts from 2011 to 2013 were uncovered, leading to a mass outrage from the online community.

“The Argentine Rugby Union strongly repudiates the discriminatory and xenophobic comments published by members of the Los Pumas team on social networks,” the union said in a statement.

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“Although the messages were expressed between 2011 and 2013 and do not represent the integrity as people that the three showed during this time in Los Pumas, from the Argentine Rugby Union we condemn any expression of hatred and consider it unacceptable.”

The Sydney Morning Herald reports the real reason the Pumas believe the tweets resurfaced several years later was because of the perception from some fans that the team didn’t sufficiently honour Argentinean football legend Maradona in the wake of his death last week.

The tweets were dug up to “sabotage” the team for its perceived slight, according to the report.

Pumas players wore a black armband in the Tri Nations clash against New Zealand over the weekend to honour to their national icon but were upstaged by the All Blacks, who paid tribute to Maradona by laying down a No 10 jersey with the late 60-year-old’s name across the field prior to performing the haka.

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The backlash against the Pumas can be seen on social media after their 38-0 thrashing at the hands of the All Blacks, with many fans outraged about the team’s perceived lack of respect towards Maradona.

“If both Diego did for you as we know and represents so much that the tribute is a piece of insulating tape on the arm, it is obviously a lack of respect,” one Argentinean fan said on social media.

“Do the homage on the (field). Where it should be. They had to receive the rejection of all Argentina to realise their error,” said another.

The backlash even caused the Pumas to post a three-minute apology video about the issue on Monday.

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“We know that the tribute we did for Diego caused disappointment, but we wanted to tell you that it was by no means our intention,” the Pumas said in the video post about Maradona.

“We did not want to stop apologising to them, we wanted to tell them that Diego is always present and is an important person for this team.”

This article first appeared on nzherald.co.nz and was republished with permission.

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