La Nuestra: Football and National Identity in Argentina 1913–1978
Focusing on the period between 1913 when the game was considered to have become ‘Argentinized’ from British influence and 1978 when Argentina hosted and won the World Cup, this thesis examines how men’s football became so ingrained within Argentine society that it became a key cultural signifier of national identity in the country. Acting as an agent for integration in a country transformed by massive European migration at the turn of the twentieth century, football became a mirror for economic, political and social developments in Argentina throughout the century and represented competing discourses surrounding national identity. Drawing on newspaper and magazine sources, and archival documents from football clubs and institutions, as well as governmental records, this thesis examines how football was used to contextualize discourses surrounding national identity. By juxtaposing these discourses against a historic investigation of socio-economic, cultural and political events in Argentine society more broadly, it challenges hegemonic ideas surrounding the use of football in this way particularly in respect of the so-called ‘criollo rebirth’ of the sport in 1913. Explorations of national identity through football in Argentina have hitherto been heavily influenced by nationalist, revisionist notions in terms of incorporating immigrants into a new Argentine ‘race’ that was white and Europeanized. Within this historiography, there is no room for any positive role for the British pioneers of the sport in Argentina who are perceived as neo-colonial, nor any recognition of dual identity within immigrant communities. Meanwhile, Argentina’s pre-existing Afro-Argentine and indigenous communities are conspicuous by their absence from discourses about national identity, as is the interior of the country when talking of Argentina as a whole. By challenging existing interpretations and filling gaps in the literature, this thesis adds to the existing knowledge by showing how football was an important cultural element for immigrants of all backgrounds to come together with the existing Argentine population without losing sight of their original national identities. It also shows how football provided a route for previously under-represented sectors of society to impact upon the national discourse, especially blacks, mestizos and the young. Football was therefore a reliable guide to understanding wider processes of political, cultural and socio-economic transformation affecting all Argentines.
- PhD