Chapter 22 Football culture and sports history in Latin America: from the Progressive Era to contemporary times
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This chapter deals with the intellectual discussion about the idea of Latin America, with the objective of showing how this debate is manifested in the context of the region’s professional football. The argument proposed is that the design of a Latin American unit encountered difficulties regarding the construction of identity throughout its history, more precisely between the late nineteenth century and the end of the twentieth century. As geographical territories often cross historical periods of continuous exchange between unity and fragmentation, approximation and distancing, the Latin American case draws attention to the particular characteristics of its colonial heritage. Without being only a dimension of the past, such influences became more complex throughout the twentieth century, when the emergence of the United States, during the so-called “Progressive Era”, as a hegemonic power began to have decisive effects on Latin American economy, politics and culture. The chapter’s purpose is to suggest that, although US hegemony is uncontested in all contexts of collective life in Latin America, its presence was not directly felt regarding modern sports, especially in the practice of professional football and the intercontinental tournaments of clubs and national teams. In this context, the otherness remained focused on the other side of the Atlantic: either on the United Kingdom, responsible for inventing the rules of sports practices; or on Latin European countries – France, Italy, Spain and Portugal – that influenced in institutional and cultural terms the styles and playing techniques in South America.

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