James Ihaka 's Opinion

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Day Four: Following the All Blacks in Argentina

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Ritchie McCaw signs autographs for Argentinian ABs' fans. Photo / James Ihaka
Ritchie McCaw signs autographs for Argentinian ABs' fans. Photo / James Ihaka

History shows that the Quillmes were an indigenous people in Argentina who lived about 1000km south of Buenos Aires.

The Quillmes resisted the Spanish invaders in the early 1500s but were eventually overpowered, enslaved and forced to march to where the present day town named in their honour stands - about 30km south of central Buenos Aires.

It is a strange place that shocks a number of the All Black fans who have gone there to watch their heroes train.

Chickens, dogs and even horses roam through a vast shanty town where the local kiosco (shops) hide behind iron bars and piles of rubbish are dumped outside corrugated iron shacks that must be home to several thousand people.

Their neighbours have BMWs parked in their driveways, imposing fences guarding their properties and barred windows.

Some have even combined their efforts to exclude any "visitors" via a 20-foot high fence topped with six feet of electric wire and complete with security cameras every few metres.

Whangarei man, Peter Gubb tells me at a cocktail event in Buenos Aires for the All Blacks later in the day about what he saw.

"There was that real juxtaposition of wealth and poverty, it was right there in your face," he says.

Not more than a block away from this shanty town is one of Latin America's oldest private - and very English - schools.

St George's College was established in 1814 and his red cross over white stands proudly next to the Argentinian flag as you enter the barbed wire fence enclosed school.

Here rugby, not fútbol, is king, and New Zealand has a special connection.

Chris Nichols has been the deputy principal at the school for the past three years and his two children, who having also lived in Brazil now speak fluent Portuguese, Spanish and English.

His greatest claim to fame is having had golfer Lydia Ko as a student in Auckland but it is a real honour to have the All Blacks train at his school.

The All Black fans have braved a bitingly cold southerly to see their team train but are typically conservative when their chance comes to meet the players, politely and quietly mobbing them for photos and autographs.

Not the St George kids though. It's maniacal and a security guard has to keep them behind a rope from charging the players. They are chanting "Pee-ree Wee-poo, Pee-ree Wee-poo".

"You kiwis, no passion," says Manuel Ortega, a Porteno who has sent his two children to St George's.

"You have the skill but not the passion - we on the other hand have the passion and some skill. We will be hard to beat and you will see this when you go to La Plata on Sabado (Saturday)," he says.

The All Blacks were again given an armed guard of seven police officers, four of whom were armed with what looked like shotguns or machine guns.

Just to make sure no-one tried any funny business on their guests, the cops pulled their guns out when they headed through the Shanty town that bordered the high barbed wire fence enclosed decile 10 school.

One of them named Jorge tells me they normally guard fútbol teams in this manner as well as government dignitaries and sometimes even rock stars.

"It's a good job - we get some autographs too," he says.

James Ihaka is in Buenos Aires following the All Blacks and their supporters thanks to the courtesy of Air New Zealand.

James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

James Ihaka has worked at the NZ Herald since 2006 having moved from the Gisborne Herald newsroom, more consistent surf and nil traffic worries. He’s a latecomer to journalism after stints travelling and teaching English as a foreign language and a foray into IT. James has worked in the Herald’s Hamilton newsroom since 2008 and he covers all breaking news in the Waikato region that encompasses virtually everything south of the Bombay Hills to Palmerston North. He took over the Maori Affairs role late last year and has whakapapa to Te Aupouri, Ngati Rangitihi, Ngati Porou and Ngati Raukawa ki te Tonga.

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