Las Leonas turn 20: a registered trademark that made great history in Argentine sports

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This September 24 marks two decades since the women’s field hockey team used the cat’s logo and name for the first time. Her achievements and her legacy.

Magui Stretch your right braid as much as you can. He begs so that the judge does not realize that there is something about the brand of the shirt that there was not until the previous game. Look at the bank and desperately search Clota. “Easy, everything is fine,” he reads on her lips. She doesn’t remember much else: only that they won and that her secret was still hidden, although. the lioness had already left the cage.

“It was our thing. Nobody knew it and until the third game nobody said anything, “he recalls Magdalena Aicega 20 years after that September 24, 2000, when for the first time the Argentine women’s field hockey team he used the figure of a lioness on his shirt. It was against the Netherlands, at the start of the final phase of the Sydney Olympic Games, when the legend of the Lionesses began, a registered trademark of the national sport.

“After the game we said: ‘Girls, don’t even think about putting this shirt in the washing machine, because we don’t know where the lioness ends up. It is washed by hand and does not touch ‘. It was all very cheesy, very homemade. Today you laugh, but beyond the fact that you do not have a single shirt, you realize that it is crazy how it happened, because we had to be rubbers not knowing how to read the regulation, “he adds Magui about that moment that anticipated the birth of the lioness.

It is that the symbol had taken shape some time before, with the aim of creating an identity that would allow that Selection that Sergio Vigil led since 1998 get out of the room he seemed to have gotten used to. The original idea was to wear that patterned shirt at the Garden Gallery at the medal match. But all that suddenly changed on September 21, when Argentina lost 1-0 to Spain in the last match of Group A. That defeat meant that, despite victories over South Korea and Great Britain, advance without points to the final phase.

“Before the match with Spain, we thought we had almost a medal in hand, for the very good score (6 units) compared to the other area, and suddenly they knock you down, you have nothing and you have to go out and fight to see if you get anything. That’s why when we lost to Spain we left crying: we thought we had no chance”, Contributes Vanina Oneto, the scorer of that team.

“The regulation influenced the fight, fundamentally a very great fault that we as a technical team had for having communicated badly. We had a hard time looking at their faces”, He recalls a bit. “We told them: ‘Girls, sorry’. But they were the first to say: ‘Well, we have zero points. Ready. What is there to do?’. The soul of the lioness warrior had to return ”, she remembers thinking.

The coaching staff, which also made up the physical trainer Luis Barrionuevo and the assistant Gabriel Minadeo, the players, the journalists and even the families of the girls took out the calculator and began to do the math. They discovered, then, that to win all three games, Argentina would play its first Olympic final. “After losing to Spain, they saw us so badly that they gave us a day of shopping. Later, in training, Chub shook us. I think he even said a bad word, ”jokes Oneto.

“I don’t forget any more than that day the journalist Ale Klappenbach approached me and said: ‘Stay calm, because if you beat the Netherlands, China and New Zealand, you are in the Olympic final’. It is that at one point we thought that we would not even be winning in a final, because the rest came with points. And that night we got together at the house ”, anticipates Aicega.

Unlike other Olympic Villas, Sydney’s was made up of houses. And that, according to Inés Arrondo, the one who put her line on the drawing of the lioness, helped to recreate “the family environment in which the team ends up transforming.” Guided by the coaching staff, the last to speak would be Barrionuevo, who brought to light the second part of a story that had a first chapter the previous year, in the Winnipeg Pan Am Games.

“It was an incredible story and it was the story of the team. I felt eternity in that moment. When Luis finished, all the spirits merged into one and there was a silence of union and connection ”, adds Vigil.

That was the most magical night that I had to live in my sports career by far. All of us who were part of the Lionesses, who weren’t Lionesses yet, holding hands and tears were falling. It was like a fire that burned and spread, ”continues Oneto. And Arrondo joins: “It was very mobilizing. We got together in the living room of that house that we inhabited as a family and that hidden treasure that we had taken without knowing if we were going to use it came out, because it was time to take out all that we felt we represented together.

Silence broke it Karina Masotta, icon and captain of the National Team. “He looked at us and said: ‘Tomorrow against Holland comes the Leona’. That shirt could only be used to hunt the medal, when we made the decision. That moment was neither a semi-final nor a final. La Leona was born from the love, conviction and dream of generations and could not be used just like that. Since it was inside the skin of the girls, the shirt had to go to them”Explains Vigil.

La Leona was our hidden treasure and we took it without knowing if we were going to be able to use it, because it was not authorized by the clothing regulations. When Clotita (Claudia Medici), the mother of that team, goes to the technical meeting with the shirt, grabs it from the tournament director and says: ‘The girls have a symbol that they put on the shirt. It’s nothing commercial ‘. They looked at it, measured it and authorized it ”, Arrondo remarks about an episode that not all of them were very clear about when they went out onto the field against Holland.

But the lioness went unnoticed. “Against Holland, no one found out that we use it. In the second game, against China, one yells at me: ‘What do you have in your chest?’. ‘Ah, no, nothing, a lioness’, I answered. In my house they didn’t even know that this existed ”, Oneto explains.

Something similar happened to Magui Aicega: “A journalist asked me: ‘What is that they have there?’ And I remember that I told him: ‘No, nothing, what do I know, a lioness that we made ourselves’. Like saying: ‘What do you care?’. But neither ball gave it and I gave it zero importance. And in the third game, when we beat New Zealand 7-1, it was that he appeared ‘The Lionesses reach an Olympic final’”. Oneto contributes: “That day Clarion titled ‘LEONAS’ in red and with 6-inch letters ”.

Australia won that Olympic final, but in Argentina something bigger had emerged. “The lioness shirt was very much ours. We never would have imagined so much. That lioness was thought to get out of that fourth place. Deep down, she was just another player. We felt an extra force from someone who was pushing us out of that place ”, highlights the scorer.

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