Tears welled up in her eyes like never before. That was the image we never imagined because he always was. Because the years passed, the tournaments and Luis Scola was a fixture in the Argentine national team. Any coach from 1999 to 2021 only had to choose 11 for his squad. There was one who was inseparable from the selection. Until today. Even that tough guy cry we thought we’d never see get excited like that in public.
Luis always wanted to play. He did not want to miss a single moment with the shirt that he represented so much and so well. That’s why he was surprised by that change with 51.4 seconds remaining from the loss to Australia. Because he thought he was going to play until the last moment. Because he made us believe that we would see him on the court when the sound of the end was heard.
First, that shy greeting from Juan Pablo Vaulet when entering for him. Afterwards, the clash of hands with all his companions. The recognition of the coaching staff and the entire bench of substitutes. Also of those who were waiting inside the field to finish the match. And the Australians joined. And the game did not continue because all the people present in the stadium were applauding it. He thanked with his hand raised a couple of times. And those applause with the match on hiatus to honor him grew louder and louder to cross the screens and reach all corners of the world. And it broke. He couldn’t hold back the tears. Luis Scola released the last drops with the Argentine shirt on. And this time it wasn’t sweat but emotion. And Facundo Campazzo came from behind, also with teary eyes, to give him a hug. That hug that represented so many people.
“I’m off guard, I wasn’t expecting it, I thought I was going to finish the game playing. I raised my head and saw the rivals, the journalists, the little public … it hit me a little. It is a gift that I will take with me forever, I really appreciate it. Respect from your peers and your peers is the ultimate prize, the most that one can get. I was doing well, but I’m doing a little better with this. I’m leaving in peace, “said Scola just after the game in an interview with the Public TV.
That goodbye that nobody wanted and at the same time was inevitable arrived. How much more could Luis give the Argentine national team? In Tokyo he played his fifth Olympic Games. He had already played five World Cups. And nine continental tournaments. And he never said no. He gave it his all.
The game ended, but it was already in the background. Australia’s triumph had already been a fact for several minutes. The elimination of Argentina in the quarterfinals was sentenced. But that farewell does not change the path traveled at all. Because that Luisito who at the age of 19 put on the Argentine shirt for the first time in the senior national team, just took it off at 41 when he was Luis. No one dressed her more than him. Nobody scored more points than him. No one honored her more than he.
To the talent, Scola added a work discipline of a superlative demand. And he set the course for those who shared schools with him. To those golden ones and to whom they were arriving. They all had him as a reference, as a leader. “Many people can say things about me, good and bad, but no one will ever say that I did not work. I am already calm with that. I wanted to get to today in that way, thinking that no one will ever be able to say that I was not there. Ready, the selection is more than names. I feel that I gave Argentina my maximum commitment, my maximum effort and the best years of my career “Scola said.
Sergio Hernández hugged him in the middle of the game. He hugged him too afterwards. He had already embraced him since he arrived to direct the selected one. In 2007, Oveja chose him as captain and Scola responded with a lot in a moment of many absences. And Hernández realized that he had someone different. “Our relationship began with me as a teacher and he as a student and ended the other way around. I was not his best coach but he is the best and most incredible player who was born in our territory, he took us to unexpected places. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. The legacy Luis leaves behind is incredible. At some point we all fell behind him because of his leadership level, his example of life, perseverance, work ethic, clarity, respect and honoring what he does. With Luis I learned that winning is small, that the most important thing is to honor every second of every day what you do in life. It will always be in my heart. We need examples like his, “said the coach after the match.
Campazzo shared a campus with Scola since London 2012. He received many of his teachings. And at this final point of the captain with the Argentine jersey, he offered his feelings: “All of us who were in the stadium have to be proud of having been in the farewell of Luis. There is a before and after him. It changed everything for the better. , He always pushed us 100%. I am honored to have shared with him, it is a privilege. We will miss him very much. He was in two incredible generations and at all times he helped us not to be compared to the previous one and to create our own own story. “
Luis Scola and the Argentine team seemed like they were never going to go their separate ways. But one day that goodbye was going to come. He grabbed the ball, took it hard, still wearing the number 4 jersey even though the timer was already at zero. And with a firm step, with the hardness of always, but with the tears of now, those that had not shown before, those that we had not wanted to let go, he walked alone from a half-empty court where the applause he received for being one of the greatest legends in basketball history still resounds.