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FEATURE Why Sebastian Cancelliere has fallen for Glasgow

Why Sebastian Cancelliere has fallen for Glasgow
1 month ago

Sebastian Cancelliere has fallen for Glasgow just as hard as the city’s rugby folk have fallen for him. The all-action Argentine is approaching the end of his third year at Scotstoun, and has been one of the club’s most effective overseas recruits since the glory days of Gregor Townsend’s reign.

The wing averages roughly a try every other game and seems to be part rubber, part kevlar, punching well above his weight in collisions and placing favourably in all the key attacking metrics. He defends with snarl and predatory vision, blitzing high and plundering interception scores. Perfect for the high-tempo fare favoured by Franco Smith.

Living among the sandstone tenements and leafy gardens of the West End, Cancelliere adores his adopted home. He has flourished in a rollicking Glasgow backline on the field and off it, welcomed his first child with wife Paz. There are even flashes of Glaswegian in his eloquent vernacular. He calls his seven-month-old daughter, Joaquina Maria, ‘the wee one’. An ‘r’ is rolled here and there in the way many Scots do.

“People who visit us from Argentina are surprised, they don’t expect Glasgow to be so beautiful, so green,” he says. “It’s a great mixture of a big city without all the bad stuff. You have everything in it without the traffic jams and lots of people. Honestly, I just love it.

“Yeah, it’s June and still a bit cloudy and rainy, and I am used to the hot weather. But besides that, it’s a beautiful city with beautiful people. That is something every family member who comes over tells me amazes them, how nice the people are here.”

Fatherhood cemented Cancelliere’s feelings towards the city. He previously referred to his daughter as a ‘wee ginger Scottish baby’ but has revised that follicular assessment. She’s blonde now, we’re told.

“It’s changed my life. It made me softer outside the pitch, more aware of stuff being fragile because she is so fragile. When I’m not training or playing, I spend 100% of my time staying and playing with the wee one.

“It’s a challenge being so far away from our families. When we have a game the next day, my wife does most of the hard work. She gets up during the night while I sleep in the other room. She is amazing and she knows about being a professional athlete, and how much I need to rest if I want to apply myself on the weekend – especially with how hard we train here. She gets it and backs me 100%.

“She used to work and play hockey, but hopefully she can get back to playing next season. I want her to go back and have some more time for herself.”

My dad is my hero. He is 64 and still plays rugby for a veterans’ team.

The power of parenting is not lost on Cancelliere, the fourth of five siblings who grew up in a Buenos Aires house large enough to contain them all. He has his own dad, Marcelo, to thank for stoking two great passions in his life – rugby and engineering. Marcelo set standards as a patriarch with his care and work ethic. He was an enthusiastic amateur player and successful industrial engineer.

“My dad is my hero. The way he and my mum gave 100% for me and my siblings. He is 64 and still plays rugby for a veterans’ team. He is one of the biggest rugby fans I’ve ever met. He could sit for a whole day watching rugby and because he played a lot, he understands it perfectly. He took me to play rugby when I was five years old, and when I was little, I was pretty good. I never stopped playing, never stopped loving it.

“With four boys and one girl, it was war at home. I just loved it. I have the best memories of the childhood. It was not much about TV or PlayStation, although thank God we had lots of possibilities, but we had a big garden, a local sports club, it was a lot of playing outside with my brothers, playing football and rugby. It was great.”

Indeed, Cancelliere rebuffed interest from abroad to stay with the Jaguares franchise and complete his degree. As his rugby career blossomed and he won Test honours, his studies slowed, and it took close to a decade of graft to finish the five-year course.

Sebastián Cancelliere
Sebastian Cancelliere was happy to remain playing in Argentina but the covid pandemic changed everything (Photo by PA)

“Before the pandemic hit, I had no plans to leave Argentina. I was 23 when I made my Pumas debut, and everything became faster. I knew I wanted to finish my degree, and that’s why I stayed. It was a challenge for me – it’s not about how smart you are, it’s about how much you are willing to finish it. I knew I had the will. I wanted to become a Puma and an industrial engineer and I knew I could do both.”

Years later, Cancelliere has fulfilled those ambitions, though his thirst to add to his 14 caps is not sated. He sits now half the world away from home, preparing for a URC semi-final bristling with intensity.

Glasgow travel to Thomond Park to renew one of the league’s most searing rivalries. Cancelliere has played in knockout games before. He featured in a Super Rugby final and, last year, the Challenge Cup final and lost them both. There’s a damaging school of thought which paints Scotland’s teams as brittle on the grandest stage. Glasgow’s professional job on the Stormers last weekend felt like an important psychological hurdle.

The sizzling malcontent between the sides will bubble to the fore again, whipped up in days of old by Ryan Wilson, Peter O’Mahony and their sidekicks. Munster have not lost a URC game since January and have lost at home twice all season. Glasgow have been beaten on ten of their past eleven trips to the province going back to 2014.

We joke about it now, we say we were the happiest men on Earth and we didn’t know it.

“I know it’s a big rivalry and I know how much they hate each other, especially Wilson,” Cancelliere chuckles. “I don’t take it personally or focus on the history.

“I know all the criticism around the mental side. The boys here are mentally tough and prepared to win and we are a more mature team than last year as well. Hopefully from past experiences we can get this job done.

“The physical part and the breakdowns are going to be massive for us. They have big jackal threats, and they are physical guys especially with Tadhg Beirne and RG Snyman. If we can apply ourselves physically as we did against the Stormers, and we get the breakdowns right and play our rugby by being smart, it’s going to be good.”

Were it not for covid, Cancelliere mightn’t be here at all, training in a Glaswegian downpour as the summer solstice looms, contemplating one of the blockbuster matches in his club career.

The Jaguares were brutally cut adrift when the pandemic took hold. Jettisoned from Super Rugby and consigned to second-tier tournaments, Argentine players were victims of geography. They had recruited almost all the top Pumas, built a cacophonous fanbase and a winning style of rugby which took them to the 2019 final. Then everything was ripped away.

“All the momentum and the team we were building,” Cancelliere reflects. “We thought we could beat anyone. Our stadium was becoming a fortress.

Sebastian Cancelliere
Cancelliere has won numerous admirers since moving to Scotland, not least among the Scotstoun support (Photo by Craig Williamson/Getty Images)

“We joke about it now, we say we were the happiest men on Earth and we didn’t know it, because we were playing the best teams in the world and living at home. On Thursday I could go watch my amateur club and stay for dinner there, then go to my mum and dad’s and drink some mate with them, then on Saturday play against the Crusaders. Sometimes you take those things for granted and all of a sudden you don’t have it anymore.

“It was hard for all of us to go abroad and start new lives from zero again. They told us, ‘this is no longer available – go and find somewhere else’ and that’s why I came to Glasgow. It pushed me and my wife to take another adventure here. I came to the right spot.”

The rugby people of Glasgow would certainly agree.

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Comments

4 Comments
L
Leonidas 36 days ago

Sebastian loves Glasgow and Glasgow loves Seba. Win, win.

A
Almi 36 days ago

What an exciting player, both in defence and attack. Glad that the Family have settled in Glesgie, weather not the best but the people are genuine and appreciative of good rugby.

c
carlos 37 days ago

Grande Sebas! Y mas grande tu viejo! Lo envidio, a mi no me “dejan” jugar mas…😢

M
Mzilikazi 38 days ago

Nice article..great to have so much back story. Love”the wee one”

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