Soccer in South America

           Football first came to South America in the 19th century via the port of Buenos Aires, Argentina, where European sailors played the game.  The first club, the Buenos Aires Football Club (FC) was formed by members of the British Community in Buenos Aires.  Another club was also started by railway workers in the town of Rosario, Argentina.  In 1893, the first Argentinean league championship was played.  Until the early 20th century most of the players belonged to the British community.

            Brazil is thought to be the second South American country where soccer or futbol was established.  In 1894, Charles Miller a soccer player in England came to Sao Paulo, Brazil and introduced soccer.  British engineers and workers building a railroad near Barranquilla were the first to play futbol in Colombia in 1903.  The Barrananquilla team was founded in 1909.  British railway workers were also the first to play in Uruguay and in 1891 founded the Central Uruguay Railway Cricket Club, which played both cricket and futbol.  In Chile, British sailors initiated play in Valparaiso, establishing the Valparaiso FC in 1889.  The first futbol club in Paraguay, Olimpia, was formed by a local man who became enthusiastic after seeing the game in Buenos Aires in 1902.  A Chilean and students who had studied in Europe were the first footballers in Bolivia.  Eventually local people across South America began taking up and following the sport in even greater numbers.  Clubs gained in popularity and by the 1930’s it had become a professional sport in most countries.  Many of the South American players began moving to European clubs after the 1930 World Cup due to higher salaries. 

            By the late 1930’s, futbol had become a crucial aspect of popular culture in many South American Nations.  In many South American nations, non-white players fought to play at the top level.  Vasco da Gama in Rio de Janeiro was the first club to recruit black players and promptly stormed the league championship in 1923.  Uruguay had a different team made up of a large portion of mixed European descent who had the more physical style played by the English and the refined passing game of the scots which lead their national team to win two Olympic Championships and the world cup between 1924 and 1930. 

            South American countries were the first to hold a regular continental championship in 1916, which was later known as the Copa America.  The Libertadores Cup for the South American club championship was started in 1960 and has been played annually against the European club champion.  Domestic league championships are split into two or more tournaments each season with frequent variations in format.

            Some of the finest athletes in the world of futbol have come from Brazil, such as Edson Arantes do Nascimento or better known as Pele, who is known for being one of the best players in the world.  Pele was born in Tres Coracoes, Brazil on October 23, 1940.  He had brilliant field strategy and a powerful kick.  Pele scored 1200 goals in 1253 games, making him the only player to score over 1000 goals throughout their career.  He began playing for the Santos Football club in 1956 and eventually led Brazil to three world cup championships.  In 1993 he was inducted into the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame after leading the New York Cosmos to the NASL Championship years before.  Pele even became so popular that his picture was put on Mastercards that were distributed to three billion futbol fans worldwide.  Since so many great athletes come from Brazil, they are known for redefining the game of futbol to a more skilled graceful game as opposed to a physical game.  Some people view them as both sportsman and artists. 

            The first world cup was held in Uruguay in 1930 and Uruguay won by two goals against Argentina.  The world War interrupted the World Cup in the 1940’s but American countries tried to make up for it by playing in local cups and transferring players to continue the evolutionary cycle of soccer in the region.  After 12 years without a World Cup, Uruguay wins the final before 200 thousand Brazilians in the Macarana stadium.  In 1960 the world cup received a record number of participations and began to be aired on television.   The world cup in Chile in 1962 was aired on black and white television.  In 1970 in Mexico, Brazil wins the last Jules Rimet cup and becomes the country with the most championships won.  In 1978, the world cup was held in Argentina, who surprisingly won even though they were currently under a bloody military regime.  Paraguay’s year came in 1979, when they won a Copa America and Olimpia wins the Libertadores and Intercontinental cups.  Later in 1986 Argentina wins it’s second World Cup after Maradona scored the most amazing goal in the history of soccer.

           Soccer or futbol is definitely still popular in South America and probably will be for a very long time.  In the seventeen world cup games since 1930, the South American nations have been the predominant winners.  Brazil has the highest number of wins with 5 in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, and 2002.  Uruguay and Argentina both have two wins.  Also Uruguay, Chile, Brazil, and Argentina have all hosted World Cup games.

Works Cited

“Football”  Encyclopedia Britannica.  2007.  Encyclopedia Britannica Online. 12 Mar. 2007

“Argentine Football Association”.  Wikipedia.  2007.  Wikipedia Online.  12 Mar. 2007.