Latin American athletes have achieved iconic status in global popular culture, but what do we know about the communities of women in sport? Futbolera is the first monograph on women’s sports in Latin America. Because sports evoke such passion, they are fertile ground for understanding the formation of social classes, national and racial identities, sexuality, and gender roles. Futbolera tells the stories of women athletes and fans as they navigated the pressures and possibilities within organized sports.
Futbolera charts the rise of physical education programs for girls, often driven by ideas of eugenics and proper motherhood, that laid the groundwork for women’s sports clubs, which began to thrive beyond the confines of school systems. Futbolera examines how women challenged both their exclusion from national pastimes and their lack of access to leisure, bodily integrity, and public space. This vibrant history also examines women’s sports through comparative case studies of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, and others. Special attention is given to women’s sports during military dictatorships of the 1970s and 1980s as well as the feminist and democratic movements that followed. The book culminates by exploring recent shifts in mindset toward women’s football and dynamic social movements of players across Latin America.
Brenda Elsey is an associate professor of history at Hofstra University and the author of Citizens and Sportsmen: Fútbol and Politics in Twentieth-Century Chile. In addition to numerous scholarly articles on politics and popular culture in Latin America, her writing has appeared in the Guardian, The New Republic, and Sports Illustrated. She co-hosts the weekly feminism and sports podcast Burn It All Down.
Joshua Nadel is an associate professor of Latin American and Caribbean history at North Carolina Central University. He is the author of Fútbol! Why Soccer Matters in Latin America as well as numerous scholarly book chapters. He has published essays in Foreign Policy, the Washington Post's newsletter Monkey Cage, Zócalo Public Square, and the Telegraph (London).
This beautifully written, meticulously researched, and incredibly thoughtful work is not a mere overview of women and sport in Latin America. Rather, it is about struggles for women’s equity, in sport, to be sure, but also across the board, providing a missing piece of the social history of women writ large. Not just a conversation starter—this book perhaps gives us the foundation for a whole new field of study.
A transformative contribution to the history of soccer, and sport more broadly, in Latin America and beyond. Futbolera sparkles with fascinating and untold stories while seamlessly bringing together rich strands of social, cultural, and discursive analysis. A must read.
Through their research, [Elsey and Nadel] navigate the challenge of reconstructing a largely forgotten, underground history…an important contribution not just to sports history, but to Latin American history as a whole.
Futbolera offers a compendium of individual, institutional, and state efforts designed to support or to undermine women’s soccer in Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Central America, and Mexico. After reading Elsey and Nadel’s book, it is impossible to plead ignorance to the fact that women have been playing soccer across Latin America for well over a century and that, to play their sport, these athletes have had to battle powers that wanted to keep them out of the game.
This well-written and meticulously researched history helps us understand the past, moving the female body out of the silence enforced upon it. History may have attempted to write women out of the story of sports in Latin America, but Futbolera puts the ball back in women's possession.
~All Heels on Deck
While sports has often been sidelined in histories of gender, class, nationalism, and the so-called Social Question in the region, Elsey and Nadel show how women’s involvement in sports animated eugenic debates over healthy citizens, nationalism, and proper motherhood in government, the Church, and the press.
~New Books Network: Latin American Studies
This book is a pure delight to read and provides tremendous new information on the struggles that the women's game has faced over the years throughout Central and South America…one of the best books ever written on international women's football.
[Futbolera] provides a critical contribution to the growing literature on the international nature of women's sports…A must read for anyone interested in soccer history.
Futbolera…has opened a path for further social and historical research into the amazing but often neglected world of women's sports in Latin America…Futbolera is as much a pleasant read for the general public as it is an essential tool for scholars who, at any stage of their careers, look to understand the complex relationships between gender, sports and political structures within any Latin American context.
~International Journal of the History of Sport
[A] far-reaching work…[Futbolera gives] a broad understanding of public and politically motivated conceptions that continue to restrict funding and support for women’s sports, in spite of the rich histories and hard-won success stories that have occurred previously.
~Journal of Latin American Studies
Futbolera is an eminently readable work and should be considered both by academics and soccer fans. Elsey and Nadel wrote in their introduction that 'History telling can confer legitimacy on its subjects,' and in their work, [they] have done a fine job of providing that service to the women who struggled against considerable odds to play the game they loved.
~Sport in American History
Elsey and Nadel have published a foundational text for Latin American history and for the histories of women and sport...The book is accessible to undergraduate students while providing sustenance for scholars of sport, women, gender, and Latin America.
Futbolera is a welcome contribution to the growing scholarship on sports in Latin America...Elsey and Nadel have not designed the book to be an authoritative treatment but a beginning; they have afforded readers a framework for understanding women’s experience with sports, a set of questions to pursue, and spaces both geographic and substantive to fill. As such, Futbolera is an invaluable contribution to the study of Latin American sports and, therefore, to understanding the region’s history beyond the playing field.
~Hispanic American Historical Review
This pioneering study of the trajectory of women’s sport in Latin America exemplifies the multiple riches to be gained from the comparatively recent reappraisal of sports history within the continent…[Elsey and Nadel's] juxtaposition of female participation in football, other sports, and societal trends exposes the ongoing fickleness of broader attitudes towards women and physicality.
~Bulletin of Latin American Research
Elsey and Nadel masterfully traverse the waters of women’s discrimination and agency through sport...Futbolera is a solid piece of scholarship. The book offers a captivating view of women’s agency, solidarity, persistence, and impact in regions known for their strong patriarchy. More than a work to encourage further research, Futbolera is a true achievement for both Latin American and women’s studies, well suited for beginner and advanced researchers.
~Journal of Sport History
Futbolera is a sweeping account of women, sports, and power covering much of a hemisphere for over a century...Futbolera teaches us that there are always powerful political and societal forces opposed to women’s soccer, and the woman’s game deserves continuous and growing support.
~The Latin Americanist
This important and timely study begins to fill the very large gap in our knowledge of women’s experiences of and through sports, particularly football, in Latin America and makes an important contribution to international sports history, as well as to Latin American studies...As the authors note, ‘the basic chronologies and events of Latin American women’s sports have not been sketched out.' Futbolera does this, and so much more, for the countries on which it focuses, its wealth of detail, notes and impressive bibliography providing an excellent basis and a reference point for the considerable work that will no doubt be produced in this field in the years to come.
~Bulletin of Spanish Studies
Futbolera fills a major gap in the historiography of Latin American sport by focusing on the trials and tribulations of women’s soccer in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Mexico from the late nineteenth century to the present day...With this volume, Elsey and Nadel have established a narrative for women’s sports in Latin America and offered detailed analysis of the sparks of creativity and organization of futboleras as well as the concerns and biases of those who opposed them. Its rigorous research and historiographic contributions make it a must-read for historians of sport, of Latin American gender relations, and of Latin American popular culture. Its accessible writing style makes it ideal for undergraduate and graduate courses pertaining to these topics.
~American Historical Review
List of Figures
Introduction 1. Physical Education and Women’s Sports in Argentina and Chile 2. Policing Women’s Sports in Brazil 3. Brazilian Sportswomen Defying Prohibition 4. Physical Education and Women’s Sports in Mexico and Central America 5. The Boom and Bust of Mexican Women’s Football
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