It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that football is the first love of every Argentine. The same is true of Mariano Pascual.
In his lifetime before he landed in India for the Kabaddi World Cup, currently being held in Gujarat, he used to be a footballer in a country where the passion for the sport can only be likened to India’s adoration for cricket.
Starting football at the age of six, Pascual played for three clubs, most notably Argentinian Primera Division outfit Club Atletico Sarmiento, who are currently 19th in the league.
But the experience he holds dear to his heart is playing for Argentinos Juniors, the club where a certain Diego Maradona made his professional debut.
While that phase of his life is now behind him, Pascual has found a new love: kabaddi.
“Argentina coach Ricardo Acuna was holding a clinic demonstrating alternate sports like kabaddi two months ago. That’s where I first learnt about the sport,” he says.
He is the last player in the Argentina team — which has as many of seven physical education teachers in their 14-member squad — to learn the sport, but his early career in football made him indispensable for the team as a raider, says Acuna.
“Playing football makes the lower part of the body very strong. Mariano is a very fast player. I saw him at the clinic and was impressed by his footwork. He is only two months into the sport of kabaddi, but has seen a lot of Pro Kabaddi League videos on the internet since then and is rapidly growing,” Acuna tells HT about the player the team calls El Potro, meaning little horse.
Growing up in O’Brien, a small town 300km away from Buenos Aires, Pascual had another passion: jinataiea, or rodeo.
“My father had a farm in O’Brien where I grew up with a lot of animals. It was there I would mount bulls and horses.
“Rodeo is very famous outside the national capital Buenos Aires. It is a typical sport in the farms and is very popular there.
“It’s not like in USA where people come to watch cowboys conquer horses or bulls and pay money for the spectacle. It’s an activity for fun and enjoyment back in Argentina, usually done during village festivals.”
While football gave him his fleet-footedness, participating in the rodeo should come in handy while tackling.
Pascual, the former football player and rodeo, has found love for the third time.