Futbol, Jews, and the Making of Argentina.

Author:McDevitt, Patrick F.
Position:Book review

Futbol, Jews, and the Making of Argentina. By Raanan Rein. Translated by Martha Grenzeback. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2015. xii + 226 pp.

This monograph makes a vital contribution to the study of both sport and ethnicity in Latin America by examining the longstanding and critical association of Argentina's Jewish community with the Club Atlanta of the Villa Crespo neighborhood in Buenos Aires. Although the club was not solely run nor patronized by Jews, the prominence of Jewish players and administrators-most vitally the presidency of Leon Kolbowski-and Villa Crespo's role as a center of Jewish life in Argentina helped to transform the club and its fans into a metonym for the wider Jewish community from the middle of the twentieth century on.

As such, the club became a source of pride for immigrants and their children and grandchildren. Although the title of the book promises a wider history of Jewish footballers and fans in Argentina, Futbol, Jews, and the Making of Argentina is primarily an institutional history of the Club Atlanta and its relationship to the immediate neighborhood rather than a wide-ranging study of Jewish identity and the national game. This emphasis can be viewed as both a strength and a weakness. By focusing so intently on one club, Rein is able to paint a detailed picture of the process by which some Argentinian Jews were transformed "from gringos to criollos" through the adoption of the national sport (15). The downside of this approach is that one is left to extrapolate how this process affected the Jewish population beyond Villa Crespo and the Club Atlanta fan base.

To be clear, this is much more than just a traditional "club history"; rather, this book is a true social and cultural history of one club. This is an important distinction. The book attentively explores the ways in which a mixed neighborhood and its associated athletic club came to be predominantly associated with the Jewish community and consequently began to attract the allegiance of fans from beyond the immediate locality. Rein does an excellent job of integrating the development of the club with the wider political history of Argentina. The chapter on the club during the Peron years is especially illuminating and thought-provoking for the manner in which it shows the centrality of sports in legitimating...

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