Argentine soccer captain and four time Ballon d´Or (FIFA World Player of the year) Lionel Messi is the arguably biggest name in Argentine sport since Diego Maradona. Messi won the FIFA award four straight years from 2009-2012 and was runner-up to Portugal´s Cristiano Ronaldo in 2013. He has showed his support for his country´s rugby team by displaying a Pumas shirt in the photo pictured to the right.
Messi is from Rosario the same city that has produced a wide variety of Pumas in recent years. Current Pumas from the city include Manuel Carizza, Juan Imhoff, and Leonardo Senatore. The shirt he is holding in the photo was given to him by another Rosario rugby player, former Stade Français back Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga. The 19 time capped Puma supports Newell´s Old Boys in Rosario, the home of Messi as a youngster before he moved to Barcelona.
Messi is far from being alone as a high profile soccer player who supports Argentine rugby. Indeed former coach and captain Diego Maradona has attended many international rugby matches. The player who took Argentina to FIFA World Cup glory in 1986 in Mexico was in the crowd at the country´s largest venue, River Plate Stadium in 2001 as Los Pumas were edged by the All Blacks in overtime.
The support of the Barcelona ace is yet another reason why Argentina hosting Rugby World Cup 2023 is such a compelling argument. It would be no stretch of the imagination to suggest that both he and Maradona would support having Argentina host the IRB Rugby World Cup. Few rugby countries can lay claim to having either let alone both former FIFA World Cup champions or Ballon d´Or winners. The importance of Los Pumas to Argentina has come a long way and with professionalism approaching new possibilities exist with the dream of hosting Rugby World Cup 2023 drawing closer.