This pioneering study of amateur fútbol (soccer) clubs in Chile reveals how the world's most popular sport has served to engage citizens in local and national politics and support democratic practices.
Fútbol, or soccer as it is called in the United States, is the most popular sport in the world. Millions of people schedule their lives and build identities around it. The World Cup tournament, played every four years, draws an audience of more than a billion people and provides a global platform for displays of athletic prowess, nationalist rhetoric, and commercial advertising. Fútbol is ubiquitous in Latin America, yet few academic histories of the sport exist, and even fewer focus on its relevance to politics in the region. To fill that gap, this book uses amateur fútbol clubs in Chile to understand the history of civic associations, popular culture, and politics.
In Citizens and Sportsmen, Brenda Elsey argues that fútbol clubs integrated working-class men into urban politics, connected them to parties, and served as venues of political critique. In this way, they contributed to the democratization of the public sphere. Elsey shows how club members debated ideas about class, ethnic, and gender identities, and also how their belief in the uniquely democratic nature of Chile energized state institutions even as it led members to criticize those very institutions. Furthermore, she reveals how fútbol clubs created rituals, narratives, and symbols that legitimated workers' claims to political subjectivity. Her case study demonstrates that the relationship between formal and informal politics is essential to fostering civic engagement and supporting democratic practices.
- Chapter One. Rayando la Cancha—Marking the Field: Chilean Football, 1893–1919
- Chapter Two. The Massive, Modern, and Marginalized in Football of the 1920s
- Chapter Three. "The White Elephant": The National Stadium, Populism, and the Popular Front, 1933–1942
- Chapter Four. The "Latin Lions" and the "Dogs of Constantinople": Immigrant Clubs, Ethnicity, and Racial Hierarchies in Football, 1920–1953
- Chapter Five. "Because We Have Nothing . . .": The Radicalization of Amateurs and the World Cup of 1962
- Chapter Six. The New Left, Popular Unity, and Football, 1963–1973
Some people think football is a matter of life and death . . . I can assure them it is much more serious than that.
Fútbol, or soccer as it is called in the United States, is the most popular sport in the world. Millions schedule their lives and build identities around a relatively simple struggle between two teams for the control of a ball. The mechanics of the game have changed little over the past hundred years. Its audience, on the other hand, has expanded enormously. Market forces, globalization, and communications technology have fueled football's transformation into a mass spectacle. Twentieth-century thinkers grappled with the significance of the popularity of sports. Many asked, "What do sports distract us from?" George Bernard Shaw concluded that sports served as an outlet for men's resentment toward their wives. His contemporary George Orwell went further, arguing that sports were a form of modern warfare; Sigmund Freud suggested that they were a sublimated expression of sexuality; and still others have viewed sports as a detour from class struggle. These writers recognized sports as an important feature of modern society. However, they assumed that sports acted as a diversion from serious matters. This book takes the opposite tack, asking, "What do sports attract participants to?" By approaching football as "what really happens" rather than as a byproduct of something else, this study takes a fresh look at life in twentieth-century Chile.
The commodification of football accompanied its growth in popularity and shaped its political significance. This commercialism is on display during the World Cup tournament. Every four years, the Cup encourages audience members to feel a common bond with one another. Spectators are surrounded by athletic prowess, nationalist rhetoric, and advertisements that appeal to supposedly universal values. More than a billion people follow the tournament on television, radio, computers, and mobile telephones as well as in stadiums. It is so uniquely popular that scientists and psychologists see the event as an opportunity to study human development. Furthermore, a barrage of documentaries, films, television series, and mainstream books have utilized football to comment on globalization. Despite the sport's global appeal, this book uses a local case study of football and focuses on its less commercial subjects. Citizens and Sportsmen tells the story of amateur football players whose dedication to civic engagement had long-term political significance in Chile. The book traces the history of organizations formed by those who loved the "beautiful game." It focuses on clubs, iconography, stories, and relationships that surround football rather than on the technical development of the sport.
Given the ubiquity of football in much of Latin America, it may surprise readers that few academic histories of the sport exist. Even fewer focus on its relevance to politics in the region. In part, this stems from the assumption that football serves only nationalist and authoritarian interests. One important historian of the region claimed that its "chief significance has been its use by the elite to bolster official ideology and to channel social energy in ways compatible with prevailing social values." Anthropologists and sociologists have been less dismissive, especially in their attention to different forms of spectatorship and consumption. While questioning the assumption that popular culture merely reproduces existing inequalities, this study demonstrates the conservative nature of professional football. The process of commercialization reinforced values that underpinned the stark disparities in Chile. Yet a historical approach provides a complex picture of football's relationship to politics by explaining its context, contingency, and change over time.
Citizens and Sportsmen argues that amateur football clubs integrated working-class men into urban politics, connected them to political parties, and served as venues of political critique. In the spaces of civic associations, working- and middle-class men debated the dominant paradigms of democracy and citizenship. They claimed that their labor and creativity entitled them to full political participation. Through their activities, they expanded the terms of political discourse. In challenging the limits of formal politics, civic associations energized the very institutions they criticized. Once firmly rooted in popular culture, the narrative of Chilean democracy created a unifying message that shaped a sense of involvement in the political process. Although many of the club directors in this book would not have characterized their work as political, it is the task of the historian to build such a case. As Michel Foucault described historical analysis, "People know what they do; they frequently know why they do what they do; but what they don't know is what what they do does."
During much of the twentieth century, Chile's political system maintained a high degree of stability and democratic representation in comparison with to the rest of Latin America, making it possible to examine football and politics over a long period. Thus, Citizens and Sportsmen contributes to recent literature on civil society and democracy, an area of study reinvigorated by the transitions from authoritarian regimes in Latin America and Eastern Europe in the 1990s. Leading social scientists, including Robert Putnam and Charles Tilly, have argued for the importance of voluntary organizations in creating democratic societies that connect citizens to the state. However, many of the studies inspired by the democratic transitions of the early 1990s marginalize the role of popular culture. This is a notable absence, given that people frequently form civic associations to share their passion for theater, dance, and sports. In contrast to scholarship in the social sciences, culture and language figure prominently in work of literary scholars. Yet the process by which cultural forms, icons, and representations influence formal politics remains murky. Much of the work in cultural studies or literary criticism in the Southern Cone (Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and Paraguay) analyzes popular culture during the authoritarian regimes and the transitions to democracy of the 1970s and 1980s. Yet without long-term historical analysis, authoritarianism appears as an anomaly, apart from society.
In Citizens and Sportsmen, I approach football as a cultural practice as well as a set of relationships, or a "field." This field served as a meeting point between individuals and institutions as well as between the material and symbolic. I define political participation broadly as the engagement of individuals and groups with the governing of their lives. Citizens and Sportsmen joins a small but expanding group of monographs in Latin American history that examine civic engagement through the study of voluntary associations. Their interest derives, at least in part, from contemporary dissatisfaction with the quality of democracy. Transitions to democracy in Chile, Argentina, and Brazil failed to alleviate social inequalities. Further, some argue that new democratic systems provide legitimacy for the neoliberal policies implemented during the dictatorships of the 1970s and 1980s. Finally, while current political systems allow for more participation than was possible under the authoritarian regimes, voter turnout and party membership have declined.
In the social sciences and the humanities, scholarship related to civic associations frequently analyzes formal political institutions at the macro level, bracketing local dynamics in the analyses of political change. Through attention to the circulation of ideas about citizenship at the local level, this book highlights the dynamic relationship between local and national politics. In Chile, working-class men and women were incorporated into municipal politics before they played a role at the national level. Although municipalities were strapped for cash and municipal posts did not offer a clear path to national political careers, candidates fiercely campaigned for local office. It is safe to assume that prestige and recognition attracted candidates. Furthermore, discourses that stressed an obligation to engage in community service encouraged citizens' participation in local politics. Over the course of the twentieth century, an ideal of civic engagement became central to amateur sports organizations. For amateur sportsmen, political activity was rooted in the local context, at the neighborhood level. Football clubs took pride in the relationships they fostered with religious organizations, labor unions, and political parties. The capability of football clubs to express the concerns of citizens to authorities depended upon these relationships.
The concept of a "public sphere" brought together research concerned with the role of civic associations in the expansion of citizenship and democratic practices. In The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, Jürgen Habermas argued that urban coffeehouses, newspapers, and salons created spaces for discussion that served as cornerstones of modern democracies. Historians have sought to identify the conditions that enabled the creation, expansion, and maintenance of the public sphere. Moreover, feminist scholarship has reworked the concept to account for the exclusionary nature of the public sphere. For example, women's marginalization from football clubs was not incidental, but was a central component of their popularity and constitutive of the limits between public and private. The debates over these topics demonstrate that the correlation between democracy and civic associations is not a foregone conclusion. In certain contexts, civic associations have limited political discussions.
Studies in Latin America have questioned the value of the public sphere for the region's history. The pioneering works of Hilda Sábato, and Carlos Forment illustrate that the model of liberal democracy has not been able to account for the types of democratic practices in Latin America. Sábato argued that a public sphere emerged in nineteenth-century Buenos Aires despite the lack of a stable liberal democracy. She traced the emergence of democratic practices, though not through the ballot box, examining the effervescence of clubs, mutual aid societies, and immigrant organizations. Furthermore, she traced the development of skills necessary for democratic practices—for example, petition writing—within these organizations. In the Chilean case, football clubs provided similar opportunities and acted as intermediaries between local governments, state agencies, political parties, and citizens. In a similar vein, Forment demonstrated that in the nineteenth century, Latin Americans practiced a form of everyday democracy in guilds, religious associations, and mutual aid societies. Moreover, Forment concluded that in the case of Mexico and Peru, citizens formed democratic organizations apart from and often in opposition to formal political institutions. In Chile, a rich network of civic associations emerged among the traditional elites as well as among artisans and workers.
Football clubs in Chile developed strong relations with political institutions. Members defined themselves as political subjects even when formally excluded from electoral participation. Scholars have noted the particularly strong connection between local politics and center-left political parties. One analysis concluded that "center and left parties were driven by a desire to control the state and its resources in order to realize their distinct ideological objectives. To achieve those objectives, they pursued primarily directive and clientelistic linkages with constituents in the local political arena." Citizens and Sportsmen offers a bottom-up perspective that challenges the unidirectionality of this relationship. Clubs actively pursued relations with local politicians in order to shape policy and resource distribution. As in neighboring Peru and Argentina, direct action and organization, not only voting, were key forms of political expression. Relative to its neighbors, fewer obstacles existed to electoral participation in Chile. Yet the political system still excluded much of the population. Legislation rescinded property requirements for voting in 1874, although the literacy clause remained until the 1920s. Furthermore, corruption, especially the cohecho, or vote buying, was prevalent in the countryside and, to a lesser extent, in cities. Finally, women could not vote in municipal elections until 1935 and in national races until 1949. Although strikes, protests, and actions of voluntary organizations provided forums where marginalized citizens could express their political views, formal political channels also provided important benefits. Football clubs did not, however, adopt a unified political ideology. After the emergence of professionalism in the 1930s, divisions arose between professional and amateur clubs over their approaches to politics. The market for football created a strong incentive for professionals to adopt politically "neutral" positions. In the 1950s and 1960s, professional football clubs attacked their amateur counterparts for their ties to leftist parties. Amateurs, for their part, criticized the impact of market logic on football.
Football clubs played an important role in the secularization of public life. The idealized public sphere is a secular space; however, this was never entirely true in Chile. Studies of Latin American associational life have argued that a strong notion of civic Catholicism emerged in the nineteenth century. Sports clubs had distant relations with religious organizations, and nearly all of their statutes prohibited religious discussion within clubs. While we cannot assume this prohibition was enforced, evidence shows that clubs rarely focused on the spiritual concerns of their members. Despite the attempts of Catholic leaders to organize leagues, they did not become a major force within football. It is unclear why, but by the 1920s, Church leaders had turned their focus away from football to promote what they termed "healthier sports," such as basketball. In all probability, the secularism of sports clubs was part of their allure. The separation of sports clubs from religious organizations further segregated women's and men's social activities. Women took an active part in church-based groups, while men abandoned these groups beginning in the mid-1800s.
Citizens and Sportsmen argues that Chileans' belief in their democratic tradition shaped their popular culture. The notion that Chileans were exceptionally democratic became a cornerstone of their national identity in the first part of the twentieth century. The reality of this democracy sparked debate across disciplines and generations. Nevertheless, popular groups drew upon this belief to bolster their claims to public resources. This discourse reconciled the exclusive nature of the political system with efforts to build an inclusive national identity. Explanations of Chile's democratic character emphasized the cultural traits of the upper and lower classes. Diplomats, scientists, and popular writers created the image of a democratic Chile both within and outside the country. Ángel Floro Costa, a Uruguayan scientist and lawyer, declared in 1899, "Chile is the only republican nation that has preserved itself . . . It is governed by an intelligent, renewable, and progressive aristocracy, similar to the English aristocracy." British diplomat James Bryce compared Chileans to the English also because, in his view, they were both "intensely political." In praising Chilean elections, Bryce observed, "Chile is also the only South American state which takes so enlightened an interest in its electoral machinery as to have devised and applied a good while ago a system of proportional representation which seems to give satisfaction, and certainly deserves the study of scientific students in other countries." International observers frequently noted the importance of political parties; for example, William Anderson Smith concluded, "The Chileno is nothing if not a politician, but mainly in the sense of being a violent partisan." Although the rhetoric of Chile's democracy obscured the enduring inequalities within the country, it also encouraged popular organizations to engage with the political system in order to resolve the problems of their communities.
Approaches, Contributions, and Sources
The attempt to define politics and culture in a way that retains their analytical value reveals striking differences among academics. The "cultural turn" or "linguistic turn" in the social sciences involved an understanding of culture and language as productive of, rather than caused by, social, political, and economic structures. However, many within political science, sociology, and history continued to disagree about the constitutive role of culture. Scholars interested in change and agency often felt uncomfortable with criticism of normative values like liberty and justice and of the coherency of subjects, such as women. In conceptualizing this book, I have found Pierre Bourdieu's approach to politics and culture, which emphasizes practice, useful. For Bourdieu, culture is expressive, performative, and productive of social relations. People practice culture when they express their worldviews through any number of actions, including speaking, writing, dancing, praying, and playing football. Clearly, social structures create limits to these expressions; however, literary theorists caution against the view of culture as a mirror of society. A more apt analogy may be to carnival mirrors that distort, change, and rearrange things "as they really are." Bourdieu's emphasis on practice and relations avoided traditional binary categorizations of culture such as high or low, resistant or dominant, or derivative or productive (of social class).
Politics, through inseparable from culture, can be thought of as an overlapping set of practices intended to control power relations. Anthony Giddens, among others in political science, distinguishes between broad and narrow definitions of politics, the first being related to the governmental decisions of a state, and the latter to "any modes of decision-making which are concerned with settling debates or conflicts where opposing interests or values clash." These types of politics frequently intersect in civic associations and popular culture. An inherent problem with defining politics is that the project itself is a political one. As J. Peter Euben explained, writers often lapse into definitions of politics based on who is doing it (often elite men) and where it is being done (in Congress rather than the home). In this sense, feminist historiography has shown the inadequacy of a definition of politics that fails to account for the interconnectedness of the public and private, the distribution of power according to gender hierarchies, and the role of gender in the creation of social class and definitions of citizenship.
Throughout the twentieth century, football clubs in Chile worked to include leisure and recreation in political agendas. In Citizens and Sportsmen, I have been especially interested in drawing out the connections among the daily practices of clubs, ideas about bodily habits, and broader political dispositions. It has revealed a fascinating process whereby club members' utilization of institutional channels (petitions to agencies, parties, and legislators) politicized football in a way that did not occur in neighboring countries. This politicization of football became part of a struggle between leftists and conservatives, who accused the former of "making politics" everywhere. Conservative parties characterized their efforts to give the Church authority over culture as a moral rather than a political stance. This supposed "apoliticism" became a staple of conservative rhetoric. At times, the book paints an overly political picture of Chilean football clubs, in the sense that many players probably drifted in and out of clubs after playing a few pichangas, or pick-up games, and certainly did not always agree with the politics of the club leadership. The protagonists of this book, therefore, are those members that connected clubs to a broader political agenda.
The history of the Chilean democratic tradition has generated controversy in part because of its mobilization in contemporary political debate. Coupled with the praise for neoliberalism, the rhetoric of Chilean "exceptionalism" has undermined the work of feminists and labor unions to address inequalities. Taking an opposite position, some have argued that the stability of the Chilean state depended upon the marginalization of women, indigenous groups, and agricultural workers. From the perspective of the Mapuche, Chile's largest indigenous group, for example, the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet could be seen as "less as a fundamental rupture of the democratic order than a resumption of a previous status quo." Tomás Moulian, a prominent Chilean sociologist, argued that the integration of political parties representing the working class, the regularity of elections, and the role of the state as the leader of economic modernization duped Chileans into believing they were democratically governed. At times, this view conceptualized politics as a zero-sum game, in which gains for one social group necessarily involve a loss for another. This book is sensitive to the importance of state violence and exclusivity throughout the twentieth century. However, this line of inquiry does not account for the significance of the discourse of democratic exceptionalism in Chilean history. Nor does it explore how people shaped, contested, and accepted this aspect of national identity.
By the mid-twentieth century, the notion that Chileans were democratic had become widely accepted. This book traces how the discourse of democracy shaped the everyday interactions and self-presentation of football clubs. The argument, in its simplest form, is that this narrative of democracy engaged everyday people in politics, encouraged political tolerance, and was skillfully used by working-class organizations to make demands on elected officials. Certain interpretations of Antonio Gramsci's concept of hegemony would characterize this integration as a way of cementing workers' participation in their own domination. However, amateur criticisms of the ruling elite and political activities went beyond the "acceptable dissent" of successful hegemony, which is why the military dictatorships of Carlos Ibáñez in the 1920s and Augusto Pinochet in the 1970s and 1980s targeted these associations. Moreover, amateur football clubs created discourses that championed working-class players, civic commitments, and political militancy.
The relationship between club members' attitudes, capacities, and habits and the civil associations to which they belonged is a central preoccupation of this book. In recent years, historians have taken an interest in the exercise of power on bodies through habitual practices. Historians have developed a more nuanced view of gender, seeing it as an ever-changing process that undergirds the power of nation-states, economic relations, and patriarchal violence toward women. As Pierre Bourdieu explained, "The body believes in what it plays at: it weeps if it mimes grief. It does not represent what it performs, it does not memorize the past, it enacts the past, bringing it back to life." For gender and citizenship, football was a key venue for the production of images of male power, the creation of an aesthetic archetype of the masculine body, and the reinforcement of men's dominance as active political agents.
This book outlines contesting versions of masculinity among football clubs and their change over time. It shows that the "crisis in masculinity" perpetually expounded by politicians, doctors, state agencies, and journalists was not a dominant discourse among working-class men. This "crisis" of masculinity implied that femininity was an unproblematic and biologically stable category. In Chile, these crises portrayed middle- and upper-class men as being in a vulnerable position despite their firm control of political, economic, and social power throughout the century. These "crises" were also connected with the efforts of corporate managers and the state to promote a disciplined, domesticated masculine ideal that would curb working-class men's radicalism. While a preoccupation with heterosexuality and virility among working-class clubs was important to social relationships, it did not necessarily translate into further exclusion of women.
Interest in gender history has inspired an impressive series of investigations in Latin American studies that question accepted colonial and national political narratives. Although the focus on football means that this study is primarily concerned with male actors, I have included a consideration of women and an analysis of femininity throughout. In this vein, Karin Rosemblatt's book Gendered Compromises has provided an important template. Rosemblatt's work showed the centrality of ideas about masculinity in shaping policies and also contributed to the historiography on the emergence of a mestizo identity, putatively a mix of Indian and European ancestry, which was central to the construction of Chilean national identity. The Chilean case has been virtually left out of the regional literature on race and ethnicity in the 1990s. Unlike Brazil and Argentina, for example, Chile never embraced the notion of a multiethnic nation. Instead, the model of Chile as a homogeneous mestizo nation with an ever-distant indigenous past became dominant. While perhaps they precluded certain forms of biological determinism, transnational racial ideologies intersected with local beliefs to shape the boundaries of political inclusion.
The research for this study is based upon virtually unexamined records, chiefly club documents, neighborhood publications, and sports magazines. The creation of a narrative for this book was a process of interpreting these disparate records. Textual analysis is only a window on what type of information passed between actors in what must have been lively exchanges. Petitions from clubs to their representatives, as they appeared in newspapers or congressional records, enabled the investigation to explore the strategies of clubs and the language in which they couched their demands. I also relied upon histories commissioned by football clubs as well as the autobiographies of sportsmen, housed in the National Library, in order to trace changes in clubs and the narratives of football. Clubs' statutes, bylaws, and annual reports provided information about their structure over time, their practices, and the ways in which members defined the clubs' purposes.
The task of mapping relationships between football clubs and other civic associations, unions, political parties, and state agencies required a review of the records of other organizations. For example, newsletters of immigrant societies were useful in understanding the role of football clubs within immigrant communities and their relationship to volunteer firefighting units, charities, and dance clubs. To trace the ways in which political parties interacted with sports clubs, I examined the records of party congresses, newspapers, and pamphlets. Comic strips, songs, and commemorative books provided materials that helped me analyze the representation of social hierarchies and citizenship in sports literature. In many cases, I have interpreted silences as data. For example, clubs touted their inclusiveness; however, their practices precluded the participation of women. Images and textual representations circulated among footballers in the clubhouse, through media, and at games. As these images circulated, they took on an air of truthfulness and legitimacy. Oral histories provided insight into the significance of clubs for participants, although my efforts to conduct interviews were only marginally successful.
Citizens and Sportsmen begins by drawing a sociohistorical map of early football clubs, shedding light on their political practices, their relationship to reform movements, and urban leisure in general. The efforts of industrialists and politicians to remake the habits of workers through strict control of time, space, and health reforms fueled the dissemination of football throughout the Southern Cone. Patrons who founded clubs sought opportunities to create class harmony. In Chapter One, I argue that the ways in which football clubs narrated historical events and petitioned government agencies supported the legitimacy of the Chilean state as an increasing presence in cultural life. Upper-class football directors created family allegories within football organizations that approximated the ones used to oppose labor organizations. Working-class players' bodies became involved in a relationship conceived of as both voluntary and pleasurable to their patrons. Good performance on the field translated into economic benefits, social status, and travel opportunities. Alternative vehicles for participation, such as the Workers' Football Association, provided leadership opportunities for working-class players, connected them to the nascent leftist press, and challenged their political exclusion. In this way, football organizations shaped class identity in the urban milieu.
The second chapter, "The Massive, Modern, and Marginalized in Football of the 1920s," takes a fresh look at the populist military dictatorship of Carlos Ibáñez through the lens of football clubs. During his dictatorship, new practices of spectatorship in stadiums and clubs challenged the authority of the military government, which had promised to bring order and modernity to the cities. Certain clubs attempted to discredit the claims that the military had intervened to preserve democracy. Moreover, members utilized football clubs as means to maintain party structure and continue union organization in the midst of increased repression. Throughout the decade, the relationship between football clubs and political parties intensified. With the birth of mass culture, technological and marketing developments meant that popular culture became more profit oriented, widespread, and accessible. Leisure activities defined the urban experience and created narratives that framed the way spectators understood their lives. Finally, new urban spaces, including stadiums, movie houses, dance halls, and restaurants, democratized entertainment.
Chapter Three, "'The White Elephant': The National Stadium, Populism, and the Popular Front, 1933–1942," analyzes the construction of the National Stadium, a turning point in the relationship between popular culture, civic associations, and politics. In previous studies of this period in Latin American history, popular culture was often portrayed as a handmaiden of populism. This chapter questions that characterization by examining football clubs in the 1930s and their efforts to shape the policies of the Popular Front. I argue that strong party identification and pluralism prevented football from becoming a populist tool. The mobilization of clubs against what they perceived to be President Arturo Alessandri's attempt to gain their support through the stadium also contributed to the formation of an antipopulist discourse. A critical public, led by amateur clubs, accused state agencies of corruption and wasteful spending during the stadium-building project. Debates over how and for whose benefit the stadium was to be built took place in sports magazines, newspapers, cafes, and clubhouses across the country. Furthermore, the mobilization of amateur clubs in support of the center-left coalition, the Popular Front, challenged the notion of culture as an apolitical sphere. This affiliation reflected a deepening connection between amateur clubs, leftist parties, and unions.
The fourth chapter, "'The Latin Lions and Dogs of Constantinople': Immigrant Clubs, Ethnicity, and Racial Hierarchies in Football, 1920–1953," traces the racial discourses that circulated in the clubs themselves as well as in the popular literature and iconography surrounding football. It argues for the importance of these narratives in defining citizenship. Immigration and transnational flows of racial stereotypes intersected with local identities to shape notions of the body politic. Popular culture acted as one of the most fluid, quickly moving, and broadly disseminated media for the construction of political subjects. The distinct experiences of European and Middle Eastern immigrants in sports clubs shed light on how racial discourses shaped civic associations. Beginning in the 1920s, sports clubs acted as vehicles by which immigrant communities could maintain relations among themselves, promote positive images of their cultures, and gain access to political power. However, as the ideal of the urban mestizo became dominant by the 1950s, Arab Chileans found themselves permanently cast as "foreigners" in a way that excluded them from being considered full citizens in the political realm. Finally, this chapter demonstrates that an assumed racial homogeneity figured importantly in the discourse of democratic exceptionalism.
By the 1950s, amateur football clubs were among the largest and most politicized civic associations in Chile, taking an active role in squatter movements, labor disputes, and political campaigns. In the process, they created a magnetic icon of the popular barrio, or neighborhood, football player. This figure became a charismatic symbol of working-class ingenuity and class injustice. The political nature of the Chilean barrio hero distinguished it from similar figures in other parts of Latin America. Chapter Five, "'Because We Have Nothing . . .': The Radicalization of Amateurs and the World Cup of 1962," examines neighborhood football clubs' roles in squatter movements, labor disputes, and political campaigns. I argue that amateur clubs contributed to the radicalization of working-class neighborhoods. Moreover, these clubs created an ideal of masculinity based on physical labor, creativity, class solidarity, and political militancy. Finally, the boom in barrio football clubs became a centerpiece of the Chilean bid to host the World Cup of 1962. Preparations for the event shed light on how the Cold War shaped the divisions between amateur and professional clubs.
The political context of the 1960s created new opportunities and challenges for Chilean football clubs. Chapter Six, "The New Left, Popular Unity, and Football, 1963–1973," examines how the emergence of the New Left and the youth culture in the 1960s gave rise to the leftist Popular Unity (Unidad Popular, or UP) government of Salvador Allende (1970–1973). Despite the growth of the professional football industry, amateurs constituted an important base for political mobilization. Football clubs and other civic associations provided resources to working-class neighborhoods despite blockades, hoarding, and threats from paramilitaries. Moreover, they organized public support for Allende's Popular Unity government. The study of football clubs illustrates the importance of civic associations in shaping and implementing the UP agenda. The enthusiasm for a new socialist culture that rejected materialism emerged among amateur clubs. At the same time, commercialization of the sport reached a new apogee. Despite the professionals' embraces of technological innovations that made it easier for multinational corporations to reach consumers, they failed to co-opt youthful rebellion and convince audiences to reconcile with authority.
The book ends with an epilogue that brings the story up to the present. On September 11, 1973, a group of military officers conducted a coup against Allende. The bombardment of the presidential palace prompted Allende's suicide and resulted in the death of many of his closest advisors. Following the coup, the military launched a campaign of massive repression. This began an era of terror for leaders of the civic associations that are the subject of this study. Since football clubs constituted important public spheres, the junta sent police to make their presence felt in clubs and playing fields. The military used large stadiums, celebrated by sportsmen as monuments to progress, as places to torture and detain prisoners. The seventeen-year dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet dismantled civic associations, squashed public debate, and destroyed long-standing connections between civil society and the state. Finally, this epilogue argues that along with neoliberal economic reforms and mass consumerism, the lack of civic associations has limited political discourse and contributed to apathy among Chileans.
I began the research for this book at the headquarters of the National Association of Amateur Football (Asociación Nacional de Fútbol Amateur, or ANFA), nestled in the bohemian barrio of República in Santiago. In the main social room, a group of older men stood conversing over tea. Young women and men walked in and out of the building. A large photograph of President Allende visiting the El Teniente mines hung over the room. When I arrived in search of records, the vice president of the association shrugged his shoulders and informed me that, sadly, the association had none. He explained that in 1973, ANFA had destroyed all membership rosters and meeting minutes. Many of the leaders had gone into hiding, ceased their activities, or been detained. While it is beyond the scope of this book to detail the history of football during the military dictatorship, it cannot ignore the events that began on September 11, 1973, including the torture and detention of prisoners in the National Stadium and the Estadio Chile, as well as the stories of young men and women sent from the barrio football fields to prison camps. No doubt, the Pinochet dictatorship, characterized by brutal violence, sought to destroy meaningful political participation. Much of what the protagonists of this book built was demolished, and they found themselves persecuted, often unsure which of their many civic affiliations had landed them in such trouble. Hopefully, this book can be of use to the futbolistas who seek to understand and shape the politics of the sport they love.
“Overall, Elsey has given us a well-executed, sorely needed national case study relevant to Latin America's most popular sport. It is jargon free and appropriate for undergraduates as well as scholars interested in political history, sports studies, or popular culture. Its strengths guarantee that it will be a measuring stick for the studies of Latin American soccer sure to emerge in coming years.”
Hispanic American Historical Review
“[This book] provides an excellent example of the ways that sports can illuminate wider social, cultural, and political understanding of a society as well as the ways that sports and sporting organizations relate to formal political structures...Elsey has produced an outstanding study of sporting, social, and political history that should be read by any scholar interested in understanding Chile in the 20th century as well as historians working on the role of sport in social and political history in other societies.”
Journal of Social History