Ignacio ‘Nacho’ Lopez Basavilbaso – The Argentinian Rugby Player who Became a Local Footy Legend

By Henry Robinson (aka Le Black Swan)

It was a sunny Tuesday in February, the clock at Ormond College struck six as the Blacks players rolled in to The Main from work, uni, the farm or their parents couch.

Among those Blackers eager to get into lanes or belt out a PB handball ‘tram track’ was Ignacio Lopez-Basavilbaso.

It was an afternoon of firsts for Ignacio: the first time he had touched a football, the first time he had seen a footy oval and his first time as a Blacker. I was also relatively new to both football and the Blacks and knowing it can be hard coming to a new club, I invited the eager Argentine to join for a warm up kick. I could tell he was serious about having a go at footy. He looked focused.

He held the footy like a rugby ball and dropped it for his first kick. The Sherrin went higher than it did far and was shanked off the side of his boot. Ignacio raced after the ball; horrified with his effort. He collected it, watched the other Blacks kicking around him for a moment and then had another go. Of course he then hit me perfectly lace out from about 15 metres away.

So begins the tale of the Uni Blacks first ever Argentinian recruit.

 

Ignacio poses for the mandatory 'international sportsperson at a Bathing Box' pic.

Ignacio poses for the mandatory ‘international sportsperson at a Bathing Box’ pic.

 

In what is an incredible feat, Nacho’s rapid improvement, combined with pure determination and raw talent saw him become a regular Reserves player. Nacho’s efforts on the field this year were profound. With his humble nature, sense of humour and constant smile he has etched his long and hard to spell name into Blacks folklore.

I thought I would sit down with the stocky half-forward to get to know a bit more about this modern day Blacks Icon.

 

Where are you from?

Buenos Aires, Argentina

 

What led you to move to Melbourne?

I moved to study Psychology, but I love surfing and Melbourne is close to good waves and has a good uni

 

I understand you were a high level rugby player in Argentina, how did you come to give AFL a try instead?

I don’t know really, I knew it was a very athletic sport. I liked the idea of hard training, like rugby training.  I thought it was a good idea to give it a try and in the worst-case scenario I would at least get really fit. I found that I enjoyed it more than rugby and wanted to see if I could play well.

 

I can’t imagine AFL gets much coverage in Argentina, how did you hear about our great game?

I came in 2010 so I knew it existed…. and that’s about it. At first I thought it had no rules,  that would be fun. It tempted me; I knew I would be able to meet lots of Aussies.

 

With so many sporting clubs out there, how did you refine your search to find the best one, the Blacks?

I looked around and then via the Melbourne Uni website I went to the Blacks home page. It said that pre-season training was on the 5th of Jan.  I thought I would go to AFL training and then to rugby training the next day. After one training with the Blacks I chose AFL. I specifically remember on a Friday early morning training I was warming up with Henry Robinson, he told me a few things to improve and just told me I just had to keep trying (Ed: Imagine how good he’d be if he warmed up with Bede Mahon instead!)

 

What did your parents say when you told them you were playing AFL?

They were very enthusiastic. Each time I would talk to my father he would ask how did you go on Saturday? What do the Aussies think of you? I didn’t know it at the time, but my parents told me that I had been written about on the Blacks page. They were very happy and read the reports each week. They liked to know I was a part of a club. It was best thing for making new friends. It replicated what I had back home. I love sport.

 

With a long list of excellent players at the Blacks, who do you think is the best?

Long Pause… In the last few games of the season I think the best was Rourkey (Peter O’Rourke) he is very hard. Pitty (Adam Pitt) is very strong. Those two are really good, they are always in charge in the back line, they are very confident. But Quailey: Quailey is the best

 

What was you first memory of coming down to The Blacks?

In my first training session, I talked to Luke, he was trying to understand if it was actually my first time at footy.  Luke explained it was a very high level, but said I should give it a go. I was determined. In the first pre season match Kent was in the rooms early, he was pacing around rearranging the gear.  I thought, wow this guy is really serious! I don’t want to mess it up!

 

Can you describe the feeling you had before your first game?

I was very nervous. I had no idea about positions; I didn’t even know how many players were on the field. I tried to watch the other half forwards and memorise where they were running. I was just planning to run and tackle as hard as I could. The first kick I had was a goal. I remember the players getting around me and they were all so happy my first kick was a goal. I wasn’t a tall player so I knew I had to pick it up at the feet of the taller players,  so I focussed on that. I did a good tackle too, but the next day was the worst day ever, I was so sore. I couldn’t believe how long the game went for, I didn’t regulate my intensity at all.

 

Ignacio in action for University Blacks against Collegians.

Ignacio in action for University Blacks against Collegians.

 

What is your pre match ritual; can you specifically describe your pre game ritual for the match against St Bernard’s at the Snake Pit in August?

Laughs… Well, where does the ritual start? That Friday night was not my normal ritual at all.  For my normal routine I like to use public transport to get to games and listen to my music. I also like to drink my tea.

(Ed: Nacho is being modest/cagey here. He was named as an emergency and didn’t expect to play. So in typical South American fashion he was out untill 7am (apparently in Argentina they stay out until very late). He then got the call from Kent at 8am, came out and played an absolute blinder and kicked what was widely agreed as goal of the year)

 

You are well known for carrying a small thermos of hot water, and what can only be
described as some kind of dried gourd filled with green tea around. Could you please describe what this Argentina tea is all about?

 

Nacho and his Mate.

Nacho and his Mate.

Its called Mate (said Mar-tay) this is a very traditional tea; I share it with all my friends. It’s for getting together with your friends and family, and replaces coffee. I have it twice a day, every day. Its good before matches, it wakes me up. I have Mate and then I can play. When Kent is talking I need my Mate, he talks for so long and with English not being my first language I sometimes lose focus without it.

 

You played 14 games this year, kicking eight goals and being named in the best four times, quite an achievement for any player, let alone a first time player. What makes you a good footballer?

I am always just very happy, I like to keep very focussed at every training, otherwise I won’t improve. I like to do everything to improve and I had lots of drive to prove I could play.  …………. My tackling is very good too…laughs.  

*(Ignacio is well known for his incredible tackling)

 

Its 5am and you want to get into a taxi to go to Revolver, who do you call to come with you?

Bear…. but he didn’t come. I thought he was the only one I could rely on. Barty and Chuck should have come but they just wanted to go sleep.

 

I hear you are studying Psychology at Melbourne Uni, can you please tell us a bit about the psychology of an AFL Footballer:

They love to bring all their weekly issues into nonsense on the Saturday where they push and shove each other. They want to forget the things that trouble them during the week; they do this by dominating their opponent.

 

I notice you are a man of much ritual, who do you sit next to when listening to Kent’s pre-game speeches?

I like to sit next to Damo Kelly who is usually on the floor doing stretches, if I’m not stretching, I’ll be having some Mate to make sure I can keep paying attention.  He sometimes calls my name, I have no idea what he is saying and I can’t answer, then everyone just laughs.

 

I am going to name a few Argentinian icons to you, can you please describe which Blacker these remind you of and why?

Steak: Juice (Josh Steadman), he looks like he would love to eat a big steak.

Gaucho (Argentinian Cowboy):  Ben Kealy, he is hard working, he gets up early and does lots of country stuff.

Diego Maradona: Quailey, he has so much talent.

Lionel Messi: Bear Robbins, everybody loves him and he is a young and excellent player.

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (Argentinian President): Hard to say, hopefully no one!

Augustin Creevy (Argentinean Rugby Captain): Well he is 120kg, so he is huge, but Bedey is a strong leader so him.

 

You have $100K to spend on The Blacks, what do you spend it on?

For next year I would put half of the money into very intense training, the other half I would spend on sending us to the beach for a footy trip. You need to have fun and be a good team as well as to be fit. That would be a premiership year I think.

 

The Blackers 'get around' Nacho for a team selfie.

The Blackers ‘get around’ Nacho for a team selfie.

 

Ignacio will certainly go down as true Blacks icon for many years to come. His approach to training, his willingness to compete and his ability to constantly improve have been an inspiration to all Blackers this year. On behalf of all at the Blacks I would like to thank him for coming down and giving it a go, he is a great player and an even better bloke.

 

A note from Nacho:

“Thanks to Uni Blacks for having me this year. I loved every footy match and training session. It was definitely a unique experience. Learning the game was really amazing, but getting involved in this incredible club was even better. I really appreciate all the openness and support that I felt. The work by coaches and helpers is truly impressive. Finally, thanks to all the players for letting me be part of the group and for such an enjoyable year. The best of luck for everyone next season.”

 

For more from Le Black Swan and our other writers, check out www.uniblacks.org.au

About The Black Hack

Loves scoops. Hates deadlines

Comments

  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    Nacho’s story is a ripper Black Hack, thanks for sharing it with the broader footy community. Surprised that I haven’t seen this in one of the dailies. Well told.

    But can I come off the long run here and once more lament the usage of the term ‘AFL’ to represent the sport of Australian Football, Footy, Aussie Rules or even Rules. AFL is a competition and/or governing body, not the sport. Lionel Messi does not play FIFA. Ian Thorpe wasn’t known as a FINAer. Steve Smith does not captain Australia’s ICC team.

    Sorry to be a churl, but it needs to be said.

  2. The Black Hack says:

    Got the message Swish. Thanks. I should’ve considered that in my editing. Was just in a rush to share Henry’s interview

    I’ll edit it on the Blacks site accordingly

  3. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    Thanks Black Hack. I know that there are more important issues to “stickle” about. Go Blacks (even Victorian ones).

  4. Great story, BH.

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