From becoming vegetarian when I was 17 to finding televised soccer boring, I have never been the upstanding Argentinian of my family haha. My interests have never really aligned directly with anything “traditionally Argentinian” except for empanadas and Argentinian art/music (which I found later on in life). Luckily though, I have been given slack for this because I was born in Vancouver, BC and not Buenos Aires like most of my family so am by default “mas o menos una gringa” (kind of a foreigner). Due to my seemingly strange interests and citizenship, I have been nicknamed “Green Peace”, “La Artista” (The Artist), simply “La Canadiense” (The Canadian), and many more because of this haha. While these nicknames were given to me as a joke, I have always understood that there are some things about my heritage that I still have yet to understand and soccer is definitely one of them.
Despite having played soccer for most of my life and spent lots of time with my soccer-crazed family, I have never been able to fully comprehend why people in Argentina are so incredibly passionate about the game. I always wondered why Argentinian pride relies so heavily on it and why entire lives revolve around it. My uncle, for example, is a soccer fanatic and has gotten into fist-fights and long-term conflicts with people over what has always seemed to me like dumb controversies about “El Rojo” (this is a nickname for his Argentinian home team, Independiente).
I have always thought to myself: “WHY?! Why would someone care about this stupid game, let alone risk their life for it?!” (violence is not uncommon at Argentinian soccer games) and as I read more about this topic, fútbol sudamericano increasingly appears to me like any popular movement or culture (e.g. religion) – it’s a platform by which people can project their concerns, frustrations, hopes, and dreams but most importantly it’s a place where people can see themselves as an integral part of something greater than themselves. And in the case of Argentinians, they view soccer as THE thing greatest than themselves (maybe right below or tied with God if they are religious). In fact, Maradona as a figure is connected with god by many Argentinians (the song I have linked below is named after his famous goal of 1986 called “the hand of god”).
As outlined by the readings, people often use first-person when speaking about a team (e.g. “We could have won if our defense wasn’t so bad”). Further, considering the origins of soccer in South America, modern fútbol sudamericano is a real-life example of a successful underdog story. For example, many famous Argentinian soccer players come from villas (e.g. Maradona), Argentinian slums, and not only manage to escape their poverty through soccer but eventually become the nation’s pride. Refer to this song and its lyrics for more insight into this topic in the context of Argentina:
Thinking about Argentinian artists such as Mercedes Sosa, popular culture like music and sport give people, albeit very few, opportunities to move up socioeconomic classes. This is not an uncommon phenomenon, as in the U.S. for example, similar trends have been seen with many of the country’s most famous Black hip-hop artists and athletes. In what other parts of society can people escape their social classes like in pockets of popular culture? While whether or not people can truly escape their marginalization remains up for discussion, the transformative powers of sport and music in society are interesting.
Discussion question: Is sport important to society? Could we or should we survive without it as societies? Why or why not?