A Star Disappears From The International Stage
Pictures Frank Uijenbroek/World Sport Pics:
I interviewed Carla Rebecchi after Argentina failed to qualify for the 2016 Olympics via the Hockey World League Semi-Finals. The captain was far from happy with her team’s performance and, sporting a heavy knee strap, she was in a black mood. But, despite the journalists’ attention at a time when all she wanted to do was tend to her injury and try to pick up her team, Rebecchi was the consummate professional. She answered the questions honestly, she tried to smile for the photographers and she vowed that Argentina would fight another day. A few months later, she led her team to a joyous, noisy victory at the 2016 Champions Trophy in London, picking up top goalscorer and player of the tournament awards.
For people who love watching hockey for the grace, speed and skill of the game, then the presence of Argentina’s Carla Rebecchi on the international stage has been an absolute joy over the past 14 years. With more than 220 international caps to her name, Rebecchi has won medals, plaudits, awards and the hearts of thousands of fans with her ability to turn a match, conjour up a goal or simply through her ability to run the emotional gauntlet of victory and loss that is matched by the vociferous and passionate Las Leonas fans.
Often in the shadows of the legendary Luciana Aymar, Rebecchi was no less important to Argentina’s success over the past two decades. Where Aymar was the magician, Rebecchi was the spirit. While all eyes would be on Aymar as she turned defences inside out with her mesmerising skills, Rebecchi would pop up like a ghost: right time, right place, right result, as the ball flew into the back of the net.
And so, it is sad to hear that Carla Rebecchi will no longer be wearing the iconic blue and white after she has announced her momentous decision to retire from the international side. As the 33-year-old explains, it hasn’t been an easy decision to make and she has wavered back and forth since the Rio Olympics back in August 2016.
“It was something that was in my head last year but after the Olympics I wasn't so sure that retirement was the right thing. The result [Argentina finished seventh] made me want to keep on a little more, but then during the holidays, I thought about it really seriously and made the final decision.”
It is a decision, says Rebecchi, that surprised a lot of people, including her teammates and coaches. “They thought I would play until the 2018 World Cup,” she says, “But I really want to do other things in my life, things I've been postponing for a while.”
This includes finishing her degree in graphic design and setting up a hockey academy and coaching clinic with her husband, the former Argentina superstar Jorge Lombi, who played for Los Leones from 1991 until 2008. It was Lombi who helped Rebecchi make her final decision. “I didn’t really discuss the decision with anyone outside the family. Of course, I talked it through with Jorge, he has been in my place before, so he was able to give me advice based on his own experiences.”
Lombi and Rebecchi also hope to start a family in the not too distant future, and with hockey-playing genes like that, the future looks bright for Argentinian hockey!
For hockey fans in Argentina, there is still a chance to glimpse Rebecchi in action as she plans to continue with her club, Ciudad de Buenos Aires, for a little while yet. But while she is adamant that this is the right decision, there is a hint of sadness as Rebecchi says: “Of course I know I will miss, very much, putting on the Argentinian shirt, but I'm very sure of the decision.Right now I am not concerned that I will miss the thrill of the big occasions, it is too soon for that, but maybe in a while, yes, I that is something I might miss. Of course, I will be able to do all those extreme sports that I love so much but couldn’t do while I was playing hockey!”
Hockey is a sport that has both ecstatic high moments and dark moments of defeat. Rebecchi’s most bitter moment on the pitch was her most recent. “Losing the quarter-finals in Rio, that hurt. It took me a couple of months to get over the sadness of that.” In that match Argentina lost 3-2 to The Netherlands, after finishing a disappointing fourth in the pool matches.
However, Rebecchi’s career has largely been one of joy. Looking back on a career that includes three Olympic Games; three World Cups, including a gold medal in 2010; nine Champion Trophies, that included six golds, two silvers and a bronze, plus a heap of other trophies, is it possible to pick a top moment?
“It has to be when we won the World Cup in Rosario in 2010. It was a great atmosphere and I scoredtwo goals in the final against the Netherlands.(Argentina beat the Netherlands 3-1).”
So as Carla Rebecchi retires from the international scene, she offers the following words to all the hockey stars of the future: “I can tell them to enjoy this beautiful game, make friends and train hard.”