Brazil, Argentina put their rivalry aside

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Brazil, Argentina put their rivalry aside

SAO PAULO - Brazil’s fierce rivalry with South American neighbor Argentina is being put aside when it comes to basketball. In London, it will be an Argentine coach leading the Brazilian men’s team in its return to the Olympics after 16 years.

Desperately needing to revamp its basketball program, Brazil didn’t think twice when it went after Ruben Magnano, the Argentine who helped his nation win the gold medal in the 2004 Athens Games after a stunning victory over the United States in the semifinals.

The Brazilian Basketball Confederation received an onslaught of criticism at first, but Magnano quickly gained widespread support, especially after qualifying Brazil for the Olympics for the first time since the 1996 Atlanta Games.

The rivalry is not even an issue anymore, unless the subject is football, of course, something Magnano learned firsthand last year.

The day after Argentina’s home loss to Uruguay in the quarterfinals of the Copa America, the South American football championship, the Brazilian players decided to give Magnano a hard time on the basketball court. While breaking the huddle following a practice, instead of yelling “Brazil’’ as usual, the players in unison shouted “Uruguay,’’ loud and clear.

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