Futbol! Why Soccer Matters in Latin America.

Author:da Cruz, Jose de Arimateia
Position:LATIN AMERICA - Book review
 
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Nadel, Joshua H. Futbol! Why Soccer Matters in Latin America. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2014.

Futbol (futebol for Brazilians) is a way of life in Latin America. The sport is practiced by millions of youths from every social stratum of society. The sport is adored by millions of people due to its grace and it is an escape from poverty for many. Some of the world's most famous soccer players have come from humble beginnings. There are the pibes (poor youth of Argentina) such as Messi and the favelados (poor youth of Brazil) such as Neymar. In this fascinating book, Joshua N. Nadel explores why soccer matters in Latin America. The answer is because it is woven into regional identities and the historical narratives of Latin American nations (p. 2). In other words, soccer helps explain the history of modern Latin America. Nadel's book examines the intersections between soccer and the nation. Soccer is not only a sport but also a lens through which cultures are formed and perpetuated with its anecdotes and histories. According to Nadel, "soccer appeared and gained popularity as Latin American narratives were in the process of being formed, and for that reason, the sport became an integral part of those national stories" (p. 3). Nadel's chapters follow a loose chronology from the arrival of soccer in Latin America in the 1800s to the present day. In addition, each chapter can be read thematically or nationally, as each chapter is a self-contained episode that highlights one aspect of the relationship between sport and country.

Soccer is more than just a game. It is a social driver in societies in Latin America and the rest of the world, especially in the globalized world of the twenty-first century. Soccer explains not only Latin America but also the world, according to Franklin Foer in his How Soccer Explains the World (2004). One such driver of social change in Latin America and an integral part of soccer is the myth of national soccer styles. According to Nadel, "national styles were actually carefully crafted historical creations invented at the precise moment that Latin American countries were grappling with their national, racial, and ethnic identities" (p. 44). For many Latin American nations, soccer became a "source of national pride and evidence of Latin American social development" (p. 45). In other words, Latin American nations do not have to copy what comes from abroad (i.e. Europeanize and whitened Latin America) in...

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