Finding Puma matroyshkas in Prague
Walking through the cobble-stoned narrow alleys of beautiful Prague, of all places, I came across a shop that sold sports-themed matryoshka dolls.
To the uninitiated, a matryoshka doll, also known as a Russian nesting doll, or Russian doll, is a set of wooden dolls of decreasing size placed one inside another (thanks Wikipedia!). Of course, they had dolls of every football team around the world; basically, every major sporting team was represented as there were specimens from all kinds of sports. As inclined as my kids are to sport, they were soon looking at them and the salesman was quick to offer us bargains.
In the front-window, yet not prominent, there was an All Black doll which was duly offered but I said I’d only buy a Puma doll, certain that my wishes would not be met. Twenty euros later, I was walking away with Russian dolls of Martín Landajo (#5) and in decreasing size, Matías Alemanno (6), Iglesias (8, not too sure if it was Rete González Iglesias or the short-term Puma hooker Santiago Iglesias Valdéz), Juan Manuel Leguizamón (8) and Juan Martín Hernández (10), the tiniest. I’d probably have re-arranged the numbers!
Having been in Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia for a few days, I had not seen any rugby products and I’ve visited more sports-goods shops than museums.
Yet, Los Pumas had their matryoshkas in Prague. Being on holiday-mode, I failed to ask how many were produced or sold every year — maybe the shop-owner was delighted that he’d sold that one (there was another one, with the old version of the Puma shirt and in the outside was great former lock Patricio Albacete).
What dawned on me was that Los Pumas, and as such, Argentine rugby, is really an international product.
This came hours before Argentine rugby was giving a massive boost of confidence when the revamped Super Rugby was announced, the main point being that it will be reduced from 18 to 15 teams, and that the Jaguares will continue to be part of the equation.
Super Rugby had been an alien tournament for its first 21 seasons and Jaguares only came onboard last year after Los Pumas had proven themselves over four years of Rugby Championship. Not as invited guests but as part of SANZAAR the association of the South African, New Zealand, Australian and now Argentine rugby unions. Sitting at the top table made all the difference.
If anything, Super Rugby was quick to understand how hurtful the enlarged tournament had been. Within a season and a bit, they realised that urgent changes were in high demand and they acted upon a tournament that was not pleasing fans, television audiences and franchises.
By going back to fifteen, one of the four Conferences is dropped as are two teams from South Africa and one from Australia. In doing this, Super Rugby has become a bit tougher which is what fans and television viewers demand and enjoy. There won’t be easy games and there will continue to be huge travel pressure on the Argentine franchise.
A streamlined Super Rugby should be positive for all involved.
From an Argentine perspective, what came out of last week’s announcement was great news. As the game grows and the market place gets more Jaguares and Pumas, then more matryoshka dolls will surface all over the world.