Thursday, August 25, 2022

The Tupis of Rugby

Luiz Pagano, playing rugby on the SPAC pitch - wearing the jersey of the Italian national team'19 - in rugby there is the after-match celebrations, fraternization between opposing teams that value friendships more than the final result of the game. During the game, the dispute is taken seriously, but at the end, we celebrate and toast together as lovers of the sport.

Would Abapuru, the most beautiful and expensive Brazilian work of art, be a cultural appropriation?

I already say that I don't think so – why!?  Because it is impossible to appropriate something that already is ours!!!

Recently Agostín Danza, CEO of the Brazilian Rugby Confederation, decided to change the nickname of the Brazilian Rugby Team from TUPIS to COBRAS, most likely influenced by a group of uninformed people who 'prohibited' the use of the Term Tupi for understanding that it was cultural appropriation.

Conflict Overview

Before we move on, let's understand more about it. Following a path contrary to that of the average Brazilian, I wasn't very interested in soccer, instead I was interested in Rugby (in Brazilian Portuguese, rúgbi, and in European Portuguese, râguebi), a sport inspired by Harpastum, practiced by the Romans in Antiquity. The name of the sport came from the school where it was created, the Rugby School, in Great Britain, it was the students of the school, with the help of others from Cambridge, who, between 1845 and 1848, drew up the first rules of the sport.

In Brazil, the sport appears in 1891, sort of along with football, when the Clube Brasileiro de Futebol Rugby was founded, organized by none other than Charles Miller, the "father" of Brazilian football.  

coat of arms of the Brazilian Rugby team - Os Tupis

As I grew up a lot in my adolescence (I’m almost 6’6), I found in swimming and high jump, which I practiced at SESI in Vila Leopoldina, as well in rugby, which I joined at the age of 14 at SPAC (São Paulo Athletic Club), my favorite sports.

Luiz Pagano, former SPAC rugby second row

All I know is that the love for international trade, the different countries in the world, as well as the love for Brazil, was always very present in training and games, which highly valued ethics and discipline.


Known as All Blacks, the very competent New Zealand Rugby team usually scares opponents a lot with the Haka, a typical dance of the Maori people used, among other things, as a form of intimidation in the face of a dispute. The ritual is beautiful, strong and impressive, and in a way, the sport has thrown Maori culture out into the world through the Haka. 

Brazilian rugby team faces the haka of the all blacks of new zealand with Tupi posture

The Ka Mate, or Haka, which the All Blacks have practiced for over a century, was created in 1820 by the Maori chief Te Rauparaha. As the All Blacks website dedicated to the history of this dance explains, the song celebrates life over death, it was written after Te Rauparaha managed to escape from a rival tribe. Although the dance is not intimidating, its name, Ka Mate, means “is death”.

The first time it was performed before a rugby match, was in the 19th century, formed by a team of players of Maori origin on a tour of the United Kingdom in 1888. This team, the predecessor of the All Blacks, pioneered both the use of the haka before the match and the use of the classic black uniform that popularized it in Europe, however, it was the original All Blacks team that made rugby history with their 1905 tour.
After all, what is said in the All Blacks' Haka - Ka Mate, Ka Mate! (it's death 2x), Ka Ora, ka Ora! (it's 2x life), tenei te tangata (come here), puhuru huru nana nei i tiki mai (the hairy man who seeks the sun), whakawahiti (and who again), te ra! (makes it glow), A upane!, Ka upane! Whiti ra! Hi! (one step, another step and the sun shines! Hi!)

In 2018, when facing the Brazilian Tupis, an ancestral dispute took place, respectfully performed in a beautiful spectacle, by ancient cultures from opposite sides of the world.

Pene'ĩ, Tupi (gûé)!
Go fot it, Tupis!! (Lit. 'my friends')


Drowning in work and the day-to-day routines, I ended up getting a little away from the news of the sport, but it was on November 10, 2018 that I was dazzled to see the fearsome Haka opposed to the posture of union of Brazilian indigenous people, The TUPIS.  It was magical! The love for the sport, for Brazil and our cultures had a ‘total reload’ in my heart.

Proud to see the game that received 35k spectators, (when I played, in the 80's and 90's I didn't even reach 500), the image of the New Zealander HAKA elegantly fought by our ANGAIPAVA TUPI doesn't get out of my mind.

After climbing positions in the world rankings in recent years, the Tupis will begin the 2023 Rugby World Cup Qualifiers. photo olimpiada do dia, Gilbert's official rugby ball with the Tupis coat of arms

Tupi was chosen by popular vote within the CBRu, defeating the arara (macaw) and sucuri (anaconda) by 47% of the votes in 2012, but seven years later the guys wanted to change the nickname – I immediately went to the battle, writing the following text:

I am rugby player, I am Brazilian, I am Tupi by spirit and I am also Tupi by blood (although I am a very distant relative), I am a descendant of Tibiriçá through his daughter, Antonia Quaresma, my grandmother, the late Dona Zuzu Correa de Morais Pagano, was born iside São Paulo Historic Triangle, on Rua da Gloria #4. Her surname is Correia, as much as Diogo Álvares Correia, the well known Caramuru who took the beautiful indigenous woman  Paraguaçu as his beloved wife on July 30, 1524.

I love and am proud to see the Tupi ritual in rugby games, as well as in the New Zealand team, I hope we have our hearts strong and pure on order to be able to perform it again.

LUIZ PAGANO (55) wearing Rugby Golden Oldies jersey - an event in 2018 that brought six sports to one location at the same time. Christchurch, New Zealand was the venue with more than 5000 over 35's competing in six different sports - rugby, hockey, netball, golf, cricket, and lawn bowls.

For me, our players are and will always be called 'Tupis' and our players 'Yaras', no matter how fearful sponsors change the shield on our shirts.

I love this image of our Yara (affectionate nickname of our Women's Rugby Team) receiving the affectionate Brazilian ancestral painting.

I don't need to ask permission to be Brazilian;
I don't need to ask permission to be Tupi;
I don't need to ask permission to hold the Anhangá party in Vale do Anhangabaú or drink Cauim in São Paulo - traditions that, if it weren't for my efforts, would already be dead and buried along with the ancient peoples of the Inhapuambuçu of Piratininga (I am an active revivalist of Tupi culture, even the beverage Cauim, I recreated with modern production processes).

Especially because, here in São Paulo, the Tupis, formerly called Tupiniquim (Tupinakyîa) by their belligerent Tupinambá cousins, have been mixing since João Ramalho's marriage to Potira, back in the 1500s.

Finally, I study Tupi antigo (Old Tupi language), my grandmother was born in the Inhapuambuçu Historical Triangle, in the very town of São Paulo.
beautiful player of the feminin brazilian rugby team, kindly called 'Yara', receiving war paint by a genuine brazilian indigenous lady

Love unites us regardless of our beliefs, skin color, current account balances or malicious politicians.

I respect and love the Tupi Antigo, the Caboclo Tupi from the terreiros of Afro-Brazilian rituals, the nostalgic TV Tupi, the Tupi biscuit, the modernist Tupi verses of Oswald and Tarcila do Amaral, and all the other multiple Tupis that form our Brazilian cultural unity.


I don't know if they came back for good, however I was super happy to see the players with the Tupis insignia on their chests, playing beautifully yesterday, led by the brave captain Paganini (almost my namesake) in a victorious game against Paraguay (yakarés) who played surprisingly well.

I'm sure that one day, I'd perform a Cauinage ritual (Tupi war ritual in which they drink the fermented manioc called Cauim) for my Rugbier friends to face the Maoris on an equal spiritual footing.

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