Soccer vs. Rugby in Argentine Society

Buenos Aires Travel Blog

 › entry 2 of 3 › view all entries

     Today, soccer is a sport that dominates most Latin American countries and even the world.  Specifically, in Argentina, soccer dictates society on every level.  You cannot walk one block in Buenos Aires without seeing a soccer jersey, a game played at a café, or political graffiti referring to soccer.

      Soccer was brought to Argentina by the British in 1867.  At the time, soccer was played only by the British or the elite social classes.  As Britain expanded the railways of Argentina, soccer began to spread like wildfire.  Immigrants and the working class took an interest in the sport and began playing among themselves.  Small clubs were formed in order to represent each group of supporters.  Eventually, the club teams developed rivalries against one another.  Soccer became a way of life for most working immigrants as it was one of their only releases from their jobs.  Soon enough, soccer games became a way of settling disputes or arguments among different teams.  Violence became a significant part in soccer games.  As soccer grew in popularity throughout the country, the elite social classes of Argentina did not want to be a part of a sport that was surrounded with such violence and vulgarity. 

      Soon, the elite class separated from the game of soccer and adopted the game of rugby.  They developed their own leagues and played each other in a more civilized fashion.  Rugby was viewed as a sport for only the elite to play and football continued to sweep the nation.  Rugby is not nearly as popular as soccer and it will never gain the same fame.

      Today, soccer is a professional sport played in Argentina while rugby is not.  There are many opportunities to play football in Argentina and receive a paycheck.  Since rugby is not a professional sport, players must come from a rich background in order to fund his career.  Good Argentine rugby players go to Europe, Australia, or New Zealand where their talents can be compensated monetarily.  

      I feel the popularity among football and rugby in Argentina today has a correlation with the socioeconomic background among Argentines.  Soccer is a sport that is supported largely all over the country and there are Argentines living below the poverty level in masses that also support football.  Rugby is a sport that is supported by mostly high class Argentines and yet they are a small percentage of the country’s population.  The history of soccer and rugby can still be seen today in the society of Argentina.  Ironically, soccer is a highly supported sport throughout the country and most of the supporters fall within the middle to lower class.  Rugby has only a fraction of supporters which represents the small percentage of higher class citizens in Argentina.  There seems to be a parallel among the two sports and the society from which the supports live. 
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!

             Historically, supporters of a local soccer team only focused on their team winning.  As long as your team was winning, it did not matter how your rivalry was playing.  Also, if a local team from your country played in an international cup, fans would encourage the local team to win, even if it is not the team you normally support.  Today, most soccer fans would rather their rivalry lose than their team win, which is quite a contrast.  For example, River Plate fans would rather see Boca Juniors lose a game and be upset than see River Plate win a game.  People are much more passionate about local teams than national teams.  Boca Juniors and River Plate fans do not want to unite together and cheer for the same cause: the national team of Argentina

            In the article, “Deciphering a Victory,” this harsh rivalry is very prominent.  Maradona, Argentina’s international soccer icon, is now the coach of the Argentine national team.  Maradona is a Boca Juniors fan and helped create an international brand for the team.  The Argentina national team plays home games at the River Plate stadium.  During the Argentina versus Columbia game, Maradona complained about the field the entire game.  The national coach did not like the grass or the stadium.  The River Plate stadium has always been home for the Argentina national team and no other coach has complained before.  Maradona stated, “Unless there is a big change we will demand another stadium.” The love for local club teams is not pushed aside for the well being of the national team.  It is clear that Maradona does not like coaching his team in a rival stadium and hopefully it will not affect his coaching since he still has a lot to prove to the Argentines. 

     Walking through the streets of downtown Atlanta, one will find many homeless people begging on the streets.  The homeless will simply hold out a cup implying they will simply hold out a cup implying they want change or blatantly hold up signs that read, “Why lie?  Need beer.” It is easy to turn a blind eye to homeless adults sleeping in a park at Georgia Tech.  However, it is not so easy to ignore a child on the street side in Argentina.

      I have noticed two major differences between the poor in America versus Argentina.  Most prevalent, the beggars in Argentina are much younger than those in America.  More often than not, children are riding the subway in order to try to earn a coin.  Which leads to the next major contrast, the poor here try to earn money.  As opposed to holding out a cup or sign, the Argentines attempt to entertain or sell items to make money.  Last week, I boarded the subway to find a boy no older than ten years old.  He juggled three balls during my train ride.  Not only did he juggle very well, he performed tricks I had never seen before.  Immediately, I had an amount of respect for this young kid.  He channeled a talent he could perform well and entertained the Argentine crowd.  It was more of an attempt to earn money then than anyone I have seen in Atlanta.  I rewarded his talents with a few pesos and continued my day.

      The next day, I boarded the subway to the sounds of a beat box.  There was a man similar to my age.  Again, instead of begging, he performed.  The guy showed off his break dancing moves and his strength and talent definitely astonished the passengers on the train.  After his performance, he collected some money, picked up his speakers, and moved on to the next car.

      Even though both economies are suffering a recession, the Argentine economy is worse off.  I suppose the American homeless will continue to rely on some type of government welfare, homeless shelters, or organizations that feed the homeless.  In Argentina, they must rely on themselves.  It is almost as if they are conveying they are not worthless poor, but they have something to contribute to the Argentine society.