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[ EN 600 ]
PASSION OF MULTITUDES
The whistle goes, the ball rolls, the world of thousands of people stops. Chants, support, suffering, celebration. It is a sport, yes, but it is so much more. It is a passion of multitudes.
The game that makes us happy—and also miserable—has a long history in Argentina. In 2023 it will be 130 years since the first official championship was held in this country. This exhibition offers a journey through that history, from its origins to the present day.
English and creole clubs, decades of amateurism and decades of professionalism, women’s football, Maradona, the national team, the relationship between football and press, politics and culture, stadiums and fans. This exhibition covers all these topics and gathers objects and images as no other exhibition has ever done.
Welcome to this journey across the fascinating history of Argentinian football.
[ EN 601 ]
THE ORIGIN OF HAPPINESS
Football has its origins in England and it arrived in Argentina along with the British community. The first game ever to be played in our country was on June 20, 1867 at the Buenos Aires Cricket Club field, near the Planetario of the city of Buenos Aires. Since football was not yet completely differentiated from rugby, it is likely that the players in these first matches touched the ball with their hands as well as with their feet. The rules were different from the ones we have today.
In those early years, football was restricted to the British community gathering places. In 1893, the Argentine Association Football League was created and the celebration of the first official male football tournament became a historical landmark.
Besides British clubs, educational institutions of this community incorporated football in their curricula. In the early 20th century, Alumni—created under the name Buenos Aires English High School—achieved high popularity, which eventually reached other teams around the country.
The ball was just starting to roll.
[ EN 602 ]
Alexander Watson Hutton, an Scottish educator and sportsman, arrived in Argentina in 1882 after being hired by the British school Saint Andrews. As a teacher of this institution, he introduced his students to football and he insisted on including that sport in the pedagogical activities of the school. In 1884, he founded his own school: the Buenos Aires English High School. Later, he played a key role in the creation of the Argentine Association Football League and became its first president.
Something similar happened in Rosario, where Isaac Newell and Anna Margarita Jockinsen laid the foundations for local football practice when they founded the Colegio Comercial Anglicano Argentino in 1884. At the beginning, it was also restricted to members of the British community, especially to clubs related to British companies, such as Central Argentine Railway Club—which would later become Rosario Central—and Newell’s Old Boys Club—which was created by former students of the Comercial Anglicano Argentino.
Alexander Watson Hutton
National General Archive Collection
Anna Margarita Jockinsen
Peña Anna Margarita of Rosario’s CANOB Collection
[ EN 603 ]
WHEN FOOTBALL BECAME FÚTBOL
In the first years of the 20th century, due to the popularity of clubs such as Alumni, several creole clubs emerged, which tried to imitate how the British played. In general, they were founded by working class young men from the main cities who got together with neighbours with whom they shared the squares and streets. This was enough to build a common sense of identity and start a football association. They also had to choose the colours, designate an address so that they can connect to other clubs and, most importantly, find a ground to play.
It is estimated that, in 1904, only in Buenos Aires and its outskirts there were around twelve self-managed tournaments with nearly 6,000 players participating.
Smaller neighbourhood clubs that did not meet the requirements imposed by the Football Association—a ground with regulatory measures, grandstands and dressing rooms with running water—ended up disappearing and many were divided or absorbed by other clubs. By 1905, only a few had slowly incorporated into the Association.
At the beginning of the 1910s, most clubs in the official league were creole and, in 1913, Racing Club of Avellaneda became the first of them to win the championship. From then on, many British clubs stopped participating in the tournament and others, like Quilmes or Banfield, became “popular” and started incorporating creole authorities. Football was already fútbol.
[ EN 604 ]
Most “creole” clubs are rooted in their neighbourhoods. For many groups of young people, to have a neighbourhood, a square or a street in common was enough to grow a sense of identity with a football association. This is clearly visible in the names of numerous clubs, which are closely linked to the territory, and especially to neighbourhoods.
In addition, the values of male culture of the time established that triumph in sports was equal to a higher level of virility. Conversely, defeat was seen as a loss of those male qualities. In this sense, in the early 1900s, when the first rivalries among neighbours arose, it was clear that teams played to defend the honour of representing the neighbourhood but also their “manliness.”
[ EN 605 ]
Due to the English origin of football, some popular teams adopted the names of British teams, such as Cambrian, Nottingham Forest and Everton. Others chose to refer directly to England or Britain, e.g Inglaterra Football Club and Británico Jrs. The use of English is also visible in teams like River Plate and Boca Juniors.
Other teams preferred to use patriotic names, such as Mariano Moreno [patriot of May Revolution], Sol de Mayo [May Sun] and Laureles de Mayo [May Laurels]. Across the country, names like San Martín [Latin America Independence Hero], Belgrano [creator of the national flag of Argentina] and Sarmiento [former President] can be found. There are also such names as Gladiador [Gladiator] or Victoriosos Unidos [In victory we unite], and names with leftists references, like 1º de Mayo [May 1st - Workers Day] and Sol Libertario [Libertarian Sun] (term used to name the anarchists in those times).
However, the most frequent names were related to territory, e.g. Caballito, Estudiantil de Almagro, Flores Unidos, Argentinos de Lomas all have names of neighbourhoods, while Brandsen, California and Campichuelo Football Club show names of streets.
[ EN 606 ]
A brand new spectacle
In the 1920s, the interest in football was growing, as well as its presence in the press, becoming an object of mass consumption.
As a spectacle for the masses, football entered the commercial logic of cultural industries. This had an impact on clubs, strengthening the difference between members, authorities, players and fans.
Some footballers turned into real “stars,” just like other show business celebrities. They appeared in magazine covers and in ads, and their faces became more and more familiar to the public.
The transformation of football into a spectacle for the masses led to an enormous increase in attendance. In consequence, several clubs started building bigger stadiums that could hold hundreds of thousands of spectators.
A grandstand in Independiente Stadium. 1923
National General Archive
[ EN 607 ]
The decisive strike
In these early years, football players were amateurs: they did not get paid and they played only to show their sports attitude or to honour the colours of the club. As football turned into a massive event, something called “brown amateurism” came about, which constituted an illegal practice in which the player was paid secretly even though it was against the rules. The search for sport success paved the way for the end of the traditional sense of identity of the player with his club and the clubs’ authorities started to negotiate the first transfers of football players.
In 1931, footballers began to fight to be recognised as workers. On April 10, they went on strike to ask for the elimination of the “lock clause,” imposed by clubs’ authorities in 1927, which prevented them from being freely transferred from one club to another. The players demonstrated on the streets and demanded a meeting with President José Félix Uriburu to solve the conflict.
As a retaliation, the Asociación Amateur Argentina de Football expelled some of the strikers. Finally, although they did not get the “free transfer,” they did get to be professionals, a victory which allowed them to sign contracts with clubs.
This was a turning point in the history of Argentinian football.
[ EN 608 ]
- The 1930s had the highest goal average in history. Teams used to have very offensive formations (1-2-3-5).
- After the 1931 strike, the most important clubs created the Argentine Football League and left the Amateur Association to become professional clubs. In 1934, they finally united and founded the Argentine Football Association (AFA).
- Boca was the first champion of the professional era.
- The AFA made official the distinction between “big” and “small” clubs: the votes of Boca, Independiente, Racing, River y San Lorenzo, and later Huracán, had three times more value than the votes of smaller clubs.
- In 1939, Newell's Old Boys and Rosario Central began to participate in AFA tournaments.
[ EN 609 ]
- The 1940s were a golden decade for Argentinian football for the memorable formations that clubs presented: River Plate’s celebrated “Machine,” the one formation that Boca fans still know by heart (Vacca, Marante, Valussi, etc.) and San Lorenzo’s “Golden Trio,” which went on an unforgettable Spain tour.
- This was the decade with the largest public attendance due to worker’s high income.
- In 1948, the tournament was cut off because of a players’ strike. Some cracks had to emigrate, most of them to Colombia, due to retaliation from club authorities.
- In that same year, Colón and Unión de Santa Fe entered AFA tournaments.
- In 1949, the jerseys started to display numbers.
[ EN 610 ]
- In 1951 an Argentinian football match was televised for the first time: San Lorenzo and River drew 1-1 at Gasómetro de Boedo stadium.
- River won 5 championships and consolidated its dominion in professional football with its team “The little machine.” Among the team players were Labruna, "Pipo" Rossi and Uruguayan Walter Gómez, and Enrique Omar Sívori joined them later.
- In the legendary match where the National Team beat England in 1953, all Argentinian forwards were from Independiente: Grillo, Cecconato, Lacasia, Micheli, and Cruz.
- Relegation by average was a novelty, although it lasted for a few years.
[ EN 611 ]
- The traditional tournament was renamed as Metropolitan and the National tournament was incorporated, which included teams from the whole country for the first time.
- Those were the years of Roma, Marzolini, Rattín and “Rojitas” from Boca; Veira, Albrecht, and Telch from San Lorenzo; and Santoro, Bernao y Artime from Independiente.
- The Copa Libertadores tournament was created. Argentinian teams were successful and won 4 cups: Inpendiente got 2, Racing got 1 and Estudiantes de La Plata got 3. Racing was the first Argentinian club to win the Copa Intercontinental.
- Estudiantes de La Plata became the first champion of the professional era, outside the “5 big clubs,” in 1967. Vélez Sarfield in 1968 and Chacarita in 1969 were next.
[ EN 612 ]
- During this decade, traditional Argentinian football teams Rosario Central, Newell's Old Boys, Quilmes y Huracán won their first professional titles.
- Argentinos Juniors revolutionised football in 1976 when Diego Armando Maradona first appeared, at the young age of 15 years old.
- In 1977, Boca won its first international tournaments: the Copa Libertadores and the Copa Intercontinental. In 1978, it defended the title as champion of the Copa Sudamericana.
- Julio Grondona initiated its long-running mandate at AFA.
- TV broadcasting of some matches became part of the fans’ routine.
[ EN 613 ]
- Maradona was transferred twice, causing great impact: to Boca, where he won his only title in Argentina, and to Barcelona.
- Talleres, Instituto and Racing, all three of them from Córdoba, were included in the Metropolitano, which was renamed as First Division.
- Three important teams got relegated for the first time ever: San Lorenzo in 1981, Racing in 1983 and Huracán in 1986.
- Relegations by average were implemented and the National B was created, which made relegations a federal issue.
- Ferro and Argentinos became champions for the first time.
- International success continued: Independiente, Argentinos and River won the Copa Libertadores. Independiente and River also won the Copa Intercontinental.
- Violence increased at stadiums and there were serious incidents between barrabravas and the police.
[ EN 614 ]
- Two tournaments per year began to be played: the Clausura and the Apertura.
- Tournament’s schedule was made similar to the European competitions to make footballers transfers easier and to avoid teams losing players during the tournaments.
- River dominated locally by winning 8 titles and 1 Copa Libertadores. Vélez also won the Copa Libertadores and the Copa Intercontinental.
- National B boosted the promotion of teams from all over the country. Teams from Salta, Tucumán, Jujuy, Corrientes and Chaco got to the top football category.
- Matches began to be broadcasted through pay TV channels.
- Lanús, Rosario Central and Talleres de Córdoba won an international title: the Copa Conmebol.
- From 1997 on, fixed numbers began to be used in First Division teams’ jerseys.
[ EN 615 ]
- A “democratic” decade: for the first time, there were 10 different First Division champions. Among them, Lanús and Banfield won their first professional tournaments. Racing became champion after 35 years.
- The number of players who were transferred to foreign teams increased significantly.
- It was Boca’s greatest decade at an international level: it won 4 Copa Libertadores, 2 Copa Intercontinental and 2 Copa Sudamericana.
- In 2009, private broadcasting of football matches came to an end. The Argentinian government bought the rights over the broadcasting of matches so that they could be watched in free to air TV.
[ EN 616 ]
- Tournaments changed their names and formats, and the number of participating teams was raised to 30.
- In 2017, Superliga, a private company managed by First Division clubs, replaced AFA as organiser.
- New championships were created: the Copa Argentina and Copa de la Superliga (then Copa de la Liga Profesional). The latter was Tigre’s first trophy, as well as Colón’s and Patronato’s.
- San Lorenzo won its first Copa Libertadores.
- Independiente won 2 Copas Sudamericanas, but it also got relegated.
- River went through its toughest times with relegation, but went on to have a successful period in which it won 2 Copa Libertadores and 1 Copa Sudamericana.
- In 2017, pay TV channels came back.
[ EN 617 ]
FOOTBALL, WITH F FOR FEMALE
Female football did not start in the 21st century: it was always there. On October 5, 1913, at the venue of the Rosario Rural Society, the female players of Fémina club played the first game ever in the country. In September 1923, the newspaper Critica published a chronicle about the new women's championship. And in the following month another match between female teams took place in Boca football pitch.
However, they faced radically biological views that claimed that football was a dangerous sport for women due to the potential damages that it could cause to their bodies, whose “natural” function was reproduction. No records of female football in the press were found in the following decades. Still, women continued playing football.
In the 1960s, female football teams reappeared in exhibitions with commercial purposes. The appeal laid in the “exoticism” of seeing women playing football. However, those exhibitions were good opportunities for women to show their identity as footballers. In 1971, some of them played a world cup in Mexico which was organised by an alcoholic beverages company.
Facing huge difficulties and prejudice, and mowing lawns themselves in small, non-official pitches known as potreros to be able to train, women managed to consolidate their own place. In 1986, the Argentine Female Football Association was founded and tournaments began to be organised. And in 1991, female football was included into AFA [Argentine Football Association] but as an amateur sport.
It was not until 2019—almost 90 years after their male counterpart—that female football became a professional sport, thanks to the struggle of players and feminist organisations.
[ EN 618 ]
In May 1986, the Argentine Female Football Association (AAFF, by its name in Spanish) was founded. Its president, Nils Altuna, was a woman dedicated to show business, and its vice president, Lilian Fadel, was also part of the culture field.
The AAFF organised tournaments, which were five-a-side at the beginning, and, at the same time, conceived a project aimed at improving the quality of life of the players, many of whom were of humble background. In consequence, the association gave away food boxes and provided free medical attention.
In 1989, the AAFF organised its first formal eleven-a-side football tournament, with teams and female players signed by the association. The tournament was called Femigol ‘89 and featured the participation of Boca, Racing, Yupanqui, Tigre, All Boys de Saavedra, Independiente, Fundación Salvatori, All Boys de Floresta, B. Caballero, Mariano Acosta and Temperley.
The AAFF had also been working on the creation of a female national team with the aim of bringing it to the first FIFA Women’s World Cup, in China. However, when in 1991 FIFA demanded AFA to add women’s football to its structure, Altuna and Fadel’s work was dismissed. The AAFF had come to an end.
[ EN 619 ]
World Cup players
In 1971, the second Women’s World Cup was played in Mexico, organised by an alcoholic beverages company. The teams that participated in this world cup were Mexico, Argentina, Italy, Denmark, England and France.
The national team stayed in Mexico for 40 days. The players had no football boots, medical staff nor manager. Their jerseys were ruined after the first wash. Another female football federation gave them spare jerseys as a gift, as well as their first boots.
After losing 3-1 to Mexico on their debut, Argentina beat England 4-1 on August 21. The four goals were scored by the number 10 player, Elba Selva. As a homage to the match, Argentina established that date as the National Female Football Player Day.
[ EN 620 ]
Argentina’s national football team started playing in 1902, in a match against Uruguay. Although almost all of its players were of the British community, over the years it became representative of “creole” football.
In a short period of time, Argentina took part in two important tournaments: the 1928 Olympics and the first World Cup. Even though it got disqualified in both of them, the press promoted the general idea that the country played "the best football in the world," which grew stronger through the 1940s and 1950s when new victories were secured in South America.
However, when the national team returned to the world cup in 1958, the early and humiliating defeat resulted in an identity crisis. The idea that our football was tactically and physically behind grew stronger.
In 1974, César Luis Menotti began the preparations for the World Cup that would take place in Argentina in four years. In 1978 the dream came true: Argentina was crowned champion of the world.
Eight years later, in Mexico 1986, the hand of Maradona and the management of Bilardo got the national team its second world cup.
Over the years, international results have been varied. The second places in the 1990 and 2014 FIFA World Cups are worthy of mention. In 2021, the national team won its 15th Copa América, ending with a trophy drought of 28 years.
Nevertheless, the Albiceleste plays a leading role in the international football scene and serves as an cover letter for the country. Everywhere in the world you can hear: “Argentina? Maradona! Messi!”
[ EN 621 ]
Looking back with today's paper
Press plays a key role in the history of football. Newspapers from the British community began writing about the new game already in the 19th century, and in the 1900s sports-specific publications appeared, like El Sportsman.
Meanwhile, some traditional newspapers such as La Prensa and La Nación added fixed sections for football and La Argentina gave the subject great importance. The 1920s were dominated by the newspaper Crítica, which sought to identify with the fans while featuring the opinion of experts. Crítica emphasised territorial rivalries and boosted the confrontations that later became “clásicos.”
Since then, football has had a prominent place in newspapers. It was journalists who came up with appellatives such as “red devils from Avellaneda,” “millionaires” and “xeneizes,” which were later adopted by the fans.
Magazines also played an essential role in this regard. El Gráfico appeared in 1919 and it remained to be one of the most important magazines throughout the century, spreading the imaginary of “creole” football—a variation of the game specific to the territory and national culture.
Other important magazines included La Cancha until the 1960s, Mundo Deportivo during the Peronist years, later Goles and Sólo Fútbol in the 1980s, which also covered on their way to the First Division. Throughout the 1990s, the newspaper Olé enjoyed a primary place in sports press.
Moreover, many clubs edited their own magazines, which were sold in kiosks along with official publications for internal consumption that revolved around the life of the club rather than sport aspects.
[ EN 622 ]
The sound of Sundays
In the mid-1920s, there was a dramatic shift in the relationship between journalism and football, triggered by the advent of the radio. In 1924, the first radio broadcast of a match was made—Argentina v. Uruguay.
This novelty led graphic media to offer their readership an outline of the field divided in numbered sections. In this way, commentators could provide their audience with a reference that helped them understand in which area of the pitch the game was taking place.
At the beginning, access to radio broadcasts was limited due to the expensive cost of radio equipment. Some newspapers placed loudspeakers outside their newsroom to rebroadcast the matches to the thousands of people there gathered. This practice spread until the 1930s, when prices dropped and domestic radios became more accessible. By the end of the 1940s, portable radios appeared and became regular companions in stadiums.
The figure of the match commentator emerged in those decades, who transmitted not only informative but also, and most importantly, emotional content. Commentators such as Luis Elías Sujit and Uruguayan Fioravanti were dominant at the beginning. José María Muñoz, a.k.a. “the commentator of America,” appeared in the 1960s hosting the famous show La oral deportiva. In the 1980s, the Uruguayan commentator Víctor Hugo Morales played a major role in football broadcasting.
Other famous commentators were Horacio García Blanco and Enrique Macaya Márquez, among others. A pioneer woman in this area was Eglis Giovanelli, one of the first women to achieve the presence of a female voice in football radio broadcasting.
[ EN 623 ]
A telebeam for the table, please
Football reached Argentinian television in the 1950s, although the expensive price of TV sets posed some limitations to this development. It was a time of pioneer programmes, such as Cabalgata deportiva Gillette.
In the 1960s, access to television expanded along with the offer of TV programmes, like Polémica en el fútbol or Deportes con opinión. The first live match broadcasts caused fear in clubs management regarding public attendance to the stadium, so these broadcasts were prohibited for some time.
In the 1970s, satellite connections allowed for live broadcast of international matches rather than the reproduction of recorded matches. Other technical innovations included the repetitions of plays in slow motion. The World Cup of 1978 brought technology to Argentina that allowed for television broadcast in colour, but only abroad. It was not until the 1980s that Argentina enjoyed TV in colour and the use of multiple cameras for the broadcast of live matches.
In 1985, matches began to be watched on Sunday nights on a TV programme that was to become a classic—Fútbol de primera, produced by a company created exclusively to broadcast sport events called Torneos y Competencias. This programme introduced, in the 1990s, the telebeam—a technology that helped to accurately determine the players’ position or distance to another player in certain plays.
Since then, football TV programming expanded on cable television and it triggered the creation of 24-hour-broadcast sport channels, owned by local or foreign companies.
[ EN 624 ]
There has always been a close relationship between football and politics. From the beginning, presidents and ministers have attended football matches. In 1916, that relationship was strengthened by the victory of the Radical party, which led to mass politics, and the transformation of football into a massive event. Sports gave politics visibility and closer relations.
Although sports clubs have always tried to keep their autonomy from the State, they have also sought assistance from authorities to own land, build stadiums or solve financial troubles. State presence in football was clear during the Alvear and Justo governments, and clearer during the Perón presidency. After the 1955 coup d’etat, the military decided to take their “deperonisation” to football and ordered the intervention of AFA for the first time—an action that would repeat itself during other dictatorial regimes.
On the other hand, football became a platform for politicians due to the visibility that it granted. The case of Mauricio Macri, the former president of Boca Juniors, is one of the most remarkable examples. There are also football players who, throughout history, have expressed their support to different candidates or have been activists for various causes—and some of them have even turned into politicians.
Finally, football pitches have served as venues to express discomfort. In 1982, the widespread plea of “The military dictatorship will end” was heard in stadiums. The “Everybody must quit” chant of the 2001 protests originated in stadiums as an angry response towards players, managers and football authorities.
[ EN 625 ]
The papelitos conflict
The military government mounted a campaign to encourage local public to display good behaviour with foreign visitors, with a special emphasis in stopping the custom of throwing small pieces of paper (confetti) during matches in order to avoid the impression of a dirty stadium.
Working at Radio Rivadavia, presenter José María Muñoz became the spokesperson of the anti-confetti campaign, and even stated that the national team could be punished if the public continued this custom.
Comedian Carlos Loiseau (Caloi), on the other hand, defended this tradition by means of his fictional character Clemente, featured in a comic strip in the newspaper Clarín. Clemente called fans to disobey "Murioz" and cried: "Throw papelitos, guys!".
The debate had a winner—from the very first match, a white papelitos curtain fell to celebrate the entrance of the Argentinian team into the field. Moreover, banners at stadiums—created and displayed by FIFA and the company Autotrol and not by Argentinian authorities—featured a huge image of Clemente calling fans to throw papelitos.
Original comic of Caloi
Loiseau Family Collection
[ EN 626 ]
The 6-0 controversy
The overwhelming victory of Argentina over Perú was the most controversial match of the 1978 World Cup. The six-goal difference raised suspicions, since it was exactly the difference the Argentinian team needed to outweigh Brazil in points and enter the final. In the football world, mistrust regarding the advantage of local teams at international events is common, but the suspicions concerning this match were fuelled by the context of the military dictatorship and the importance the regime gave to the World Cup. Disbelieving the truthfulness of the victory was a way of delegitimising the title won by Argentina.
There were rumours at the time about the Argentinian authorities pressing members of the Peruvian delegation or conducting negotiations with the Peruvian government when Videla visited both dressing rooms after the match. The governments of these two countries were in the hands of military dictatorships linked by friendly bonds. However, time has passed and neither Peruvian nor Argentinian participants have never said anything to prove those rumours true. Even some Peruvian players, like its main player Teófilo Cubillas, have declared that that match was fairly lost on the pitch.
Dictator Jorge Rafael Videla in Perú’s dressing room after the match.
El Gráfico Archive Collection
[ EN 627 ]
Boycott of the World Cup
By the end of 1977, several countries started a boycott of the World Cup with the main aim of preventing players from going to Argentina and legitimising the military government. In France, where many Argentinians lived in exile, the Committee for the Boycott of the Organisation of the World Cup in Argentina was created. Although the Committee could not stop the World Cup, it managed to bring the issue of the dictatorship's crimes to the main European newspapers.
The boycott was met by the military authorities with aggressive propaganda which denounced the boycott as an “anti-Argentina campaign abroad” run by “international subversion.” Sports journalism, press in general and different celebrities took it upon themselves to defend the organisation of the World Cup in Argentina, along with defenders from the sports world. This imprinted a marked nationalistic epic on the event. The Argentinian triumph was celebrated as a sports success, but also as a victory against “the world” and those who were against the country.
Poster designed by Jean François Batellier for the Committee for the Boycott of the Organisation of the World Cup in Argentina (Comité de Boicot a la Organización del Mundial de Fútbol en la Argentina, COBA)
From the National Sport Museum collection in France
[ EN 628 ]
The Autarchic Entity for the organisation of the World Cup
When the military seized power, the World Cup was already planned. The dictatorship decided to attach great importance to it, conscious of the huge power of propaganda that the championship had. The military sought to project a certain self-image not only locally to Argentinian society, but also abroad, where accusations against the military government and its systemic violations of human rights were growing.
The Autarchic Entity World Cup 78 was created to run the organisation of the event under the direction of Admiral Carlos Lacoste—a military man close to Emilio Massera. Its main goal was to hold control of the economic aspects of the organisation, while the Argentine Football Association (AFA) would handle sport and ceremonial aspects.
The cost of stadiums, motorways and accommodation construction and improvements were much higher than expected, which led to multiple accusations of corruption. In addition to being a tool for propaganda, the World Cup was a huge business for several key figures of the military government.
Collection María Cristina Martín Gregoric
[ EN 629 ]
Ever since football started to lure millions of people, its commercial potential was clear. Already in the 1910s there were banners in some pitches promoting products to a predominantly male public—liquor, beer, cigarettes, razors and clothes. The construction of big stadiums with several balconies brought new opportunities to display ads.
In the 1920s, the faces of famous players became increasingly present in advertisement, facilitating the expansion of the internal market and the development of the advertisement industry. Products such as cigarettes “43” or aperitif “Monte Cudine” run campaigns explicitly linked to football, offering prizes and gifts to players depending on the number of goals they scored.
Soon new forms of in-pitch advertisement developed, such as people dressed as a Sugus candy accompanying the entrance of players in important matches in the 1960s. In the same decade, the first ads on the players’ clothes appeared, such as the sweatshirts reading “Crush” worn by Boca players when entering the pitch. During the following decade, sponsors appeared on the official jerseys of some clubs for the first time. The first ad featured in jerseys was from Cooperativa Saénz Peña, accompanying Estudiantes de Caseros in its only professional championship of the First Division in 1978. The presence of brands in jerseys spreaded since then, and became almost universal in the 1990s.
[ EN 630 ]
Very early, scenes of the matches were screened in cinemas. Starting with the match between Alumni and the English team Southampton in 1906, film recordings of matches were common.
Fiction films began to explore the topic of football when sound films appeared. The second sound film in Argentinian history was Los tres berretines (1933), which addressed the topics of tango, cinema, and football. In 1937, the comedy El cañonero de Giles was released, starring Luis Sandrini. The title referred to “el mortero de Rufino,” i.e. Bernabé Ferreyra’s nickname, who appeared in the film along with other famous players, as in many other films of the time.
Titles with football references became increasingly common in the following years—the melodrama Pelota de trapo (1949), the historical film Escuela de campeones (1950) about the history of the club Alumni, and Enrique Santos Discépolo’s classic El hincha (1951) on fanaticism. The film Sacachispas (1950) had such a success that inspired the creation of an homonymous club which still exists today.
Football remained the main topic of several motion pictures through time, such as El crack (1960), and a secondary topic in many others. Recent films revolving around this topic include the animated film Metegol (2013) and Hoy partido a las 3 (2017), in which the sport engages in dialogues with gender and freedom of gender identity vindications.
[ EN 631 ]
In 1918, Horacio Quiroga published “Juan Polti, half back” in Buenos Aires, considered the first articulation of football and literature in the Spanish language. Since then, the world of Argentinian literature has had a close relationship with this sport.
Several of the early sport commentators were writers. Therefore, the articles of Pablo Rojas Paz, Borocotó, Juan José de Soiza-Reilly or Chantecler oscillated between literature and journalistic comment.
In the 1920s, texts began to draw from football to interpret Argentinian reality. Roberto Arlt’s etchings (“Ayer vi ganar a los argentinos”, 1929) and Enrique Carriego’s essay on popular speech (“El fútbol, tema de las conversaciones”, 1938) are two of the best examples for this phenomenon.
Great literary figures of the 20th century dealt with this topic at some point—Leopoldo Marechal, Álvaro Yunque, Ernesto Sabato, Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy Casares, among others. This became a literary subgenre over time, which is key for writers such as Roberto Fontanarrosa, Osvaldo Soriano, Juan Sasturain, Alejandro Dolina, Guillermo Saccomano, Eduardo Sacheri and Hernán Casciari.
Football also appeared repeatedly in graphic humour and comics: Calé’s strips from the 1950s, the saga entitled Ídolos del fútbol featured in the magazine El Tony in the 1960s and 1970s, and Fontanarrosa’s Semblanzas deportivas in the 1980s are just a few noteworthy examples of a great and rich football-related literary tradition.
[ EN 632 ]
Tango had a strong relationship with football. Besides their chants, virtually all major clubs had an “official” tango. Moreover, there were many pieces with football subjects, such as “Patadura,” “Déjelo señora,” “El sueño del pibe,” “Cero a cero,” “Mi primer gol” and “Pelota de cuero.” Many of them included the names of football players such as Sastre, Orsi, Varallo, Pescia, Tarasconi (“Tarasca solo”), Moreno (“A José Manuel Moreno”), Ferreyra (“Bernabé, la fiera”), among others.
Murgas and candombes had a direct link with football, since they were danced and performed in tournament celebrations, in either the club headquarters or the neighbourhood streets. Later, rock, cuarteto, cumbia and trap followed this path. Some songs are dedicated to football players, such as “El anillo del capitán Beto,” written by Spinetta to Alonso; “El Messi As,” from Coti to Messi; or “Román” from Acru. Rodrigo, Los Piojos, Los Ratones Paranoicos, Las Pastillas del Abuelo and Charly García paid homage to Maradona. Other artists composed more or less official songs to their clubs, such as Los Palmeras for Colón de Santa Fe, Ignacio Copani and Joaquín Levinton for River, Trueno for Boca and Zambayonny for Olimpo de Bahía Blanca. Moreover, there are songs about football passion in general.
[ EN 633 ]
Football stickers were born to attract customers of certain products. Since the 1910s, cigarettes Ultra and Dólar, candy Canel and chocolate Águila included teams and players illustrations in their products. Stickers soon became an object of interest in themselves.
The emergence of sticker albums and the obsession to complete them was another great selling strategy. The ones who completed the albums received prizes like bicycles and footballs. A key aspect of this strategy was the existence of “difficult-to-get stickers.” These were scarce and hindered the completion of the album.
Moreover, sticker publishing houses included educational stickers of Argentinian national heroes, great scientists, explorers and so on, along with football players. This made the purchase more appealing to families and school authorities and increased the number of stickers needed to complete the album.
Sticker collectionists outweighed this selling strategy by trading stickers, giving birth to their particular slang, with words such as “late” (“la tengo” for “I already have it”) or “nola” (“no la tengo” for “I don’t have it”). Games were also created, and winners took the stickers of their opponents, such as “el chupi,” “la tapadita” and “el espejito.”
[ EN 634 ]
STAGES FILLED WITH PASSION
The history of football was linked to the history of city public space. During the first decades of the 20th century, the struggles of the clubs to find places to build their own stadiums, the need to play in borrowed plots and evictions caused by the growth of the real estate market were common. Some clubs had to move or, in some cases, disappeared altogether.
The playing pitches had to comply with certain requirements to join the official league—regulatory measures, at least one grandstand and dressing rooms with running water.
From the end of the 1920s, bigger football clubs began replacing their pitches with wooden grandstands with cement stadiums. However, these transformations were progressive and many pitches kept their wooden grandstands for a long time. Since reforms posed huge costs that could not be covered with members’ subscriptions nor the selling of match tickets and player transfers, the government intervened by means of credits, tax exemptions, funding and land donations.
Made of cement or wood, stadiums became an essential part of the identity of football and football teams.
[ EN 635 ]
Throughout football history, tragedy has struck several times in stadiums, leaving numerous victims. One of them occurred on July 2, 1944, in Argentina, after a match between River and San Lorenzo at Estadio Monumental, when nine fans were killed in a human avalanche.
An even more terrible episode occurred at the same stadium on June 23, 1968, when River and Boca, the “clásico,” drew 0-0. While visiting fans were leaving the stadium through gate 12, an avalanche of spectators left 71 dead and 113 injured people. This constitutes the greatest catastrophe in our football and one of the most serious in the history of the sport.
The cause of this tragedy was never clarified. According to one of the circulating rumours, a scissor gate was partially closed, while others say that turnstiles—which were used at the entrance and then removed to facilitate the exit of fans—had been merely moved aside, partially blocking the exit. Another rumour goes that the police are to blame, since they would have beaten the fans as they were leaving, stopping the crowd and causing the disaster. This last version can be found in one of Boca fans’ chants: “No había puerta, no había molinete. / Era la cana que daba con machete” [There were no doors, there were no turnstiles. / It was the coppers beating with their machetes]. Police repression was common in stadiums and, during the dictatorship of General Onganía, they were common in other spaces as well.
The judicial investigation ended without any culprits. Initially, two club authorities were prosecuted for negligence, but the case was eventually closed. The AFA ordered that the proceeds from all matches played on that date be donated to the families of the victims, who were mostly young men.
Biblioteca Nacional Archive
[ EN 636 ]
Football’s appeal triggered the presence of police officers in certain matches, to protect referees and players, stop ticket falsification and prevent people without tickets from entering the stadiums.
In 1916, the scarce presence of the police in the first South American Championship final between Argentina and Uruguay led to the suspension of the match due to chaos in the public, which ended with the Gimnasia y Esgrima de Buenos Aires stadium in flames. The match against Uruguay in 1924 also had to be suspended, despite the actions of mounted police against the public and the placement of wire fencing to stop fans from entering the pitch of Sportivo Barracas.
These episodes became common, especially during the “clásicos” between clubs of known rivalry or the visits of clubs from the city of Buenos Aires in stadiums of Rosario. The first two casualties due to police shooting were inflicted among the attendance of a match between the reserves of Lanús and Boca in 1939. In 1958, a tear gas grenade thrown by the infantry guard killed a fan in a match between Vélez and River.
Police repression also had a role in the increase of violent episodes associated with football from the 1980s, when armed confrontations between barras and security forces were common. Not only fans fell victims of this type of violence—in 2005, Carlos Azcurra, a player of San Martín de Mendoza, was close to losing his life due to a rubber bullet shot by the police.
[ EN 637 ]
Barras bravas, the Latin American hooligans
Almost from the beginning of football popularisation, there were fans who engaged in violent actions because they considered referees’ decisions or opponents’ actions to be unfair. They sometimes threw things to or entered the pitch, and some of them even brought cutting and stabbing weapons to threaten referees and opponents.
The first two deaths were caused in 1922—one occurred in a match between Tiro Federal and Newell’s Old Boys, and the other was a Uruguayan fan killed in Montevideo by a person linked to the Argentine delegation.
It was not until the 1950s that violent fans were seen as a different group. In 1967, after the death of a Racing supporter in the hands of Huracán fans, they began to be known as “barras bravas.”
Soon sports journalism pointed out the complicity of club authorities and barras, which were used as a collision force to settle internal political differences. Barras had relations with politicians, trade unionists and military men who allowed them to consolidate as components of clubs’ everyday life.
The 1980s were marked with the highest number of football-related violence episodes. In response to this escalation of violence, the Congress passed the “De La Rúa’s law” in 1985, which established harder sentences for those responsible for these episodes. By the end of the 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s, visiting fans were banned from entering other clubs altogether.
During those years, the term “aguante” became popular to designate the resistance of a barra against other barras and the police. Its use was extended to refer to the support strength of fans in the face of adverse sport situations.
[ EN 638 ]
WE WILL WHOLEHEARTEDLY CHEER YOU
There is no football without fans. Already in the 1920s, fans were a distinctive figure, with close bonds with their team’s neighbourhood and colours. With the consolidation of “clásicos,” the fans’ sense of identity was determined not only by the bonds with its fellow club fans, but also by opposition to their rivals.
Football folklore grew little by little: hats, flags, club’s garments, stops at corners, cafes or squares on the way to the stadium, among other traditions. Once at the pitch, it was customary to occupy the same spot with the same people and to choose the best place to hang flags or signs.
Music also assumed a key role in the ritual. Bass drums, wind instruments and modified lyrics of well-known songs are used to cheer the teams and, sometimes, to ask players to improve their performance. Other chants challenge the rival fans that, when visitors were allowed to attend matches, created a sort of dialogue with the rival’s own chants. A typical trait of these songs is the identification of triumph with virility and the feminization of the rival.
Women have always been part of that football ceremony, even though many times they have had to accept the dynamics of sexist codes and songs, that only in recent years have started to be questioned.
For many fans going to the pitch is a sacred activity: some people keep the tickets after the matches, as well as signed jerseys, pieces of grass or mud from the “temple,” among other tokens that feed the cornerstone of football—passion. Passion of multitudes.