Football in Latin America: a great passion, or an obsession?
Sport and, more specifically, football has an awesome power to unite people from all sorts of cultural backgrounds and nowhere is this more true than in my favourite continent of them all, Latin America.
It is well-known that football is much loved across Latin America. Brazil’s national team is one of the greatest in the world and FC Barcelona’s Lionel Messi is from Argentina, as was the now infamous Diego Maradona. Football is famous in Latin America and Latin America, it would seem, is famous for football.
Everyone from Latin America seems to support one of the country’s local teams. Even those whom you would never expect to have any interest in any sport, least of all football, often have a favourite team. When the national team is playing, countries come to a halt. During the recent World Cup qualifiers, classes at schools and universities were cancelled in order for students – and staff – to watch the games. Go out into the streets of Colombia during match-time and you will find them deserted. Of course, you don’t actually need to watch the games to know what is happening. Every time a goal is scored, the drivers out in the few cars on the road start honking their horns and, in buildings across the city, the locals set off the alarms that are usually used to warn neighbours of burglars operating in the area. The passion for football even has Latinos making films about it – in Argentina a recent animated film, “Metegol”, all about the miniature version of the game, table football, is about to go global.
In spite of this apparent obsession with the sport, there are naturally a few – though very, very few it seems – people who are simply not interested in the game. Some people do dare to admit that they do not like the sport but the shocked, horrified reaction from others means that many are unwilling to admit their dislike, or even hatred in some cases, of football. To confess this mortal sin is to be scorned, mocked, and shunned.
People across Latin America share a great passion for this sport but within families and among friends, the sport has been known to cause rifts, arguments, and can breakdown relationships. With such fervent enthusiasm, is this passion or an obsession?