In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Soccer (Fútbol) in the Americas

  • Introduction
  • Soccer, Community, and Agency
  • Latino Soccer Boom
  • Latino Soccer Communities
  • Global Soccer Networks
  • Brandification of National Teams
  • Global Soccer and Rituals of Resistance

Latino Studies Soccer (Fútbol) in the Americas
Juan Javier Pescador
  • LAST REVIEWED: 19 March 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 19 March 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199913701-0023


Soccer, association football, or simply “fútbol,” is by and large the most popular sport among Latino communities in the United States. This is particularly true in the Mexican, Guatemalan, Honduran, Salvadoran, Costa Rican, Panamanian, Colombian, Peruvian, Argentinian, Brazilian, Bolivian, Uruguayan, Paraguayan, and Ecuadorian communities. In large metropolitan areas, rural communities, or midsize cities, people of Latin American descent and origin participate in soccer teams, tournaments, leagues, clubs, and associations in massive numbers. Soccer affiliation easily represents the largest demographic participation in voluntary associations by Latinas and Latinos in the United States. As soccer players, referees, organizers, spectators, and consumers, Latin Americans and US-born Latinos participate in the sport on a regular basis and have made it not only an integral part of their recreational activities and leisure behavior but also a singular feature of the Latina/o popular culture and experience in the United States. For Latin American communities in the United States, soccer associations have played a fundamental role in structuring recreational activities for players, organizers, and their families. Leisure and entertainment are not, however, the only factors to consider. In fact, soccer associations are by far the largest civic and voluntary organizations among people of Latin American ancestry/origin in the United States, and these organizations have made a permanent contribution to the formation of a social life for Latinas and Latinos in American society. Soccer and other sports organizations have traditionally functioned as social venues to identify and develop leadership skills, as well as to provide agency and representation for the community to voice its needs and concerns, and to gain access to public facilities in organized and autonomous ways.

History in South America

Of the studies on the history of soccer communities, those pertaining to South America are much more developed anywhere else in the Southern Hemisphere, especially for Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, and Chile, where soccer rules and is unchallenged as the most popular sport in urban areas. South American intellectuals and journalists have provided insightful perspectives on soccer and its relevance in those countries. The classic Brazilian essay “O negro no Futebol Brasileiro” (Filho 2003, originally published in 1947) is certainly the first historical analysis of soccer in Brazil and the continent. Filho focuses on the process of Afro-Brazilians struggle for integration in football and their undeniable contributions to Brazil hegemony in the sport. Galeano 1995 is a Uruguayan essay on soccer, culture, and capitalism; Leite Lopes 1999 contains numerous essays on the social dimensions of Brazilian soccer. Throughout the 20th century, social scientists viewed fútbol as a social activity in Latin America, with some disdain. One exception is Lever 1995, the pioneering analysis on Brazilian soccer and national identity. Furthermore, since the 1980s anthropologist Eduardo Archetti has examined the intersections between sports, national identity, masculinity, and dance by researching Argentina’s rich history with soccer and tango (see Archetti 1984 and Archetti 1999). Other remarkable exceptions are Alabarces 2007 and Alabarces and Rodríguez 1996, works on Argentinian soccer, national identities, and soccer fans.

  • Alabarces, Pablo. Fútbol y Patria. El fútbol y las narrativas de la Nación en la Argentina. 2d ed. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Prometeo Libros, 2007.

    Sociohistorical analysis of soccer and national identities in 20th-century Argentina. Provides a comprehensive overview of Argentinian soccer spectatorship and constructions of national identity in different periods of the country’s history.

  • Alabarces, Pablo, and María Graciela Rodríguez. Cuestión de Pelotas: Fútbol, deporte, sociedad, cultura. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Atuel, 1996.

    Pioneering essay on soccer’s social significance in Argentinian communities.

  • Archetti, Eduardo P. Fútbol y ethos. Monografías e informes de investigación 7. Buenos Aires, Argentina: FLASCO, 1984.

    Pioneering study and brief report on soccer and social structures.

  • Archetti, Eduardo P. Masculinities: Football, Polo, and the Tango in Argentina. Oxford: Berg, 1999.

    Groundbreaking study on the construction of Argentinian masculinities through team sports and dance.

  • Filho, Mario Rodrigues. O negro no futebol Brasileiro. 4th ed. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Mauad Editora, 2003.

    Classic essay on the racial integration of soccer in Brazil and the history of the sport in the country. Originally published in 1947.

  • Galeano, Eduardo. El fútbol a sol y a sombra. Madrid: Siglo XXI de España, 1995.

    Classic essay on soccer “grand theater,” its protagonists, spectators, and connections with media and society at large.

  • Leite Lopes, Jose Sergio. “The Brazilian Style of Football and Its Dilemmas.” In Football Cultures and Identities. Edited by Gary Armstrong and Richard Giulianotti. London: Macmillan, 1999.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230378896

    Study on the different ways in which playing styles are associated with Brazilian national identity.

  • Lever, Janet. Soccer Madness: Brazil’s Passion for the World’s Most Popular Sport. Longrove, IL: Waveland, 1995.

    Model analysis of Brazilians’ unique attachment to soccer in the late 20th century.

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