Rugby World

Bloody toll of a tyranny

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LA PLATA is one of Argentina’s top rugby clubs and lies 30 miles south along the coast from Buenos Aires. In 1975, members of their gifted first team started to disappear. The rate accelerate­d after a right-wing military coup in 1976 brought General Jorge Rafael Videla to power.

Of an estimated 30,000 people who disappeare­d under Videla’s regime, 152 were rugby players.

La Plata, where left-wing activism was prevalent, suffered most – 20 of their players were murdered over four years.

The team was defiant, once turning a minute’s silence into ten at the start of a match. They replaced the missing with younger players and played on. In June 1978, when Videla was presenting football’s World Cup (above) to Argentina at River Plate Stadium, dissidents were being tortured and executed at a detention centre less than a mile away.

The shocking story came to light after an Argentine journalist located the sole survivor from the 1975 La Plata team. A book was published in Argentina, then in Italy and France. TheSilence­d brings the story to UK readers and has been translated from a book by Claudio Fava, whose father was murdered by the mafia.

It took La Plata 20 years after the killings to recover their status as a champion side. Videla died in disgrace in prison in 2013.

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