Diego Arellano will be one half of the commentary team, along with Serious About Rugby League’s Trev Smith, to call the January 16 global livestream of Latin Heat v Thailand in Canberra.
You can help contribute to the cost of the livestream via a small donation that will ensure future games are covered in the same way.
ONE suspects there will come a time when Diego Arellano becomes a name entrenched in Rugby League history.
A journalist who speaks fluent English and Spanish, Diego is already a vital linkman in the global expansion of the game – particularly in his home nation of Argentina.
Although now living in Sydney, the ardent Wests Tigers fan has been central to the emergence of Confederacion de Argentina Rugby League in recent times.
And he has already made one dream come true, providing live bilingual commentary for Rugby League games broadcast over the internet throughout the entirety of Latin America.
“I arrived in Australia in 1977 and, at one point, Dad worked as a welder in Leichhardt, which is the only reason why I can think we went to watch a Balmain Tigers game when I was six or seven,” Diego says.
“I can remember thinking ‘How come you can’t hear the commentary at the ground like you can on TV?’
“But I was hooked on both the sport and my beloved Tigers and have never looked back.”
For the past two years Arellano has been associated with the Rugby League movement called Latin Heat – an organisation which provides a representative pathway and encourages development for Latinos worldwide.
Like many involved with the Heat, his past involves conflict, with his family deciding to flee the military dictatorship which took hold of Argentina under General Jorge Videla.
While never losing the love for his place of birth, Diego has taken to heart many Australian customs and the way of life.
His first hero growing up was Australian and Balmain fullback Allan McMahon, followed in later years by Garry Jack, Ben Elias, Paul Sironen, Steve Roach, Kerry Hemsley and Scott Gale.
“As a kid I used to commentate and call my own fantasy games in my bedroom,” Diego laughs.
“My neighbours wouldn’t have known what was going on with all the screaming.
“I used to buy all the magazines and watch all the rugby league shows.
“I knew all the players and their stats.”
But it wasn’t long until young Diego felt a pining for the game which had captured his heart.
“I missed Australia and Rugby League terribly, so I subscribed to both Rugby League Week and Big League, even though they would arrive weeks late,” he says.
“Then, as with now, I read every edition from cover-to-cover.
“I began working for the Buenos Aires Herald and was mainly a soccer, rugby union and tennis reporter, but one day in 1995 I convinced my boss to let me write an article about Rugby League.
“Once that was published, I wrote to the Australian Rugby League and pushed for Argentina to be invited to participate in the ARL Sevens.
“But then Super League came along and, among all the change at the time, the Sevens ceased to exist.”
So obsessed with Rugby League was a young Diego, he used to invite Argentinian friends back to his home to watch VHS recordings of Balmain and State of Origin games.
During Arellano’s time in Argentina, two notable Rugby League games were organised, Argentina’s first and only international series until now.
It was in 2005, with the Penguins losing 40-4 and 60-6 against Australian Police.
Since then there has been a 10-year absence from the global stage for a nation that is brimming with athletic potential, an aptitude for contact sports and an inherent machismo.
And in that space of time, Arellano has returned to live in Australia, becoming a writer for Rugby League News and commentator for TripleH FM radio.
“I cover Sydney Shield, Ron Massey and VB NSW Cup games,” explains the 43-year-old, now living at Fairfield.
“And I’m a Wests Tigers member and try to get to as many of their games as I can.
“Sadly my father has passed away, but I have to thank him for the courage as a new Australian, coming from a soccer-mad country, to take me to a rugby league game so many years ago.”
Current head coach Gabriel Keegan was also born in Argentina.
When Navarro scored a game-levelling goal from the sidelines against Thailand, Arellano was commentating in both Spanish and English to audiences around the world via the internet.
He was also relaying the message as Giuliano scored a freakish try against the Philippines and as Chacone led a Latino war chant before the same game.
“I have to say it was a special honour to call the match against Thailand – a childhood dream of sorts came true that day,” enthuses Diego.
“To introduce people watching back in Latin America to the finer points of the game and call a match in Spanish was something I was never sure would happen.
“I believe in what Latin Heat is trying to achieve and I’m proud to say I’m a member of their committee now.
“One of the key areas I look after is communicating with Argentina several times a week, and I can tell you the signs there are very promising at the moment.”
Indeed, the code is making renewed headway after its long hiatus, with Carlos Varela establishing Confederacion de Argentina Rugby League (CARL) and attracting startling interest.
In a manner of months, the determined administrator has held promotional evenings, training sessions and diplomatic talks to the stage where he is now prepared to host touring teams.
The next step will be establishing a domestic competition, and encouraging neighbours Chile, Brazil and Uruguay to do likewise.
In Australia, proud Argentinians have a chance to be a part of the Cabramatta International Rugby League Nines carnival on January 30 at Cabramatta, Sydney
There, at least three teams representing Latin America will go head-to-head with nations from around the world, another step forward for international Rugby League.
To find out more or enquire about playing, contact Robert@sambatimes.com
The efforts of Latin Heat Rugby League are supported by Guzman y Gomez Mexican Taquerias, S.H.I.E.L.D Security, Tattoo Tears, OneBigSwitch.com.au, Jani-King Cleaning, SeriousAboutRL.com, Rugby League Team Manager 2015 computer game, Lichtnauer and Associates Accountants, Cabramatta Ink and Majestic Property Maintenance, and Darkside Studio Photography.