¡Animales! Civility, Modernity, and Constructions of Identity in Argentine Soccer, 1955-1970




Sibaja, Rwany

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This dissertation argues that <italic>fútbol</italic>, or soccer, was a privileged venue in Argentina for negotiating social anxieties between 1955 and 1970, which in turn produced changing notions of national and masculine identity. Fútbol discourse also reflected middle-class preoccupations with success, civility, and modernity. As a result, this project engages with three distinct bodies of literature: works on middle class societies in Latin America, writings on masculinity and national identity in sports, and cultural studies of mid-twentieth century Argentina. Drawing on the wealth of scholarship on class and popular culture, this dissertation places the prevailing fútbol discourses in Argentina within a broader study of class anxieties in the 1950s and 1960s. These decades saw a shift in Argentina toward technocratic ideas that rejected traditionalism and populist governance, and sought to modernize Argentina. The goal was to fulfill the potential of an industrialized Argentina, and place the nation among the developed socities of the world. In fútbol, this meant de-emphasizing traditional styles of play--heavy on individual talent and creativity--in favor of modern tactical systems, discipline, and greater physical conditioning. Many of the actors central to this dissertation--players, journalists, coaches, physical trainers, and sport officials--looked toward Europe for proven tactical systems and training methods. The result was a decade of "<italic>fútbol moderno</italic> " that produced a hard-hitting physical style of play. The goal was to out-muscle, out-run, and outlast opponents. The success of Argentine teams in the mid-1960s validated "fútbol moderno" in the eyes of these reformers. Yet, the solutions presented by the advocates of "modern" tactics and training methods were not universally accepted. Critics questioned if the singular pursuit of success came at the expense of the nation's reputation in the world. By 1969, Argentine athletes gained notoriety as "dirty" players who practiced "<italic>anti-fútbol</italic>," and, as English coach Alf Ramsey famously put it, behaved like "animals." Argentina's standing on the world stage was at stake. As a litany of disorders took place on and off the field in the late 1960s, serious doubts emerged about the modernity and civility of the Argentine people, especially among the middle-class actors central to this study. The result was a polarization among fútbol aficionados. Whereas purists linked masculinity and "Argentineanness" to the creole traditions of the past, others defined them according to the tenets of modern fútbol that favored strength and winning above all else. This dissertation exposes how these polarized views of Argentine fútbol, which still exist today, emanate from the debates of the 1950s and 1960s.



Latin American history, History, Argentina, Masculinity, Middle class, National team, Popular culture, Soccer