Capturing more than a century of struggles, this stirring cultural history traces the evolution of women’s participation in sports in Latin America, from physical education to amateur clubs to the creation of national teams.
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.
- List of Figures
- 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
“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.”
“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.”
Amy Bass, The College of New Rochelle
“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.”
Laurent Dubois, Duke University, author of The Language of the Game: How to Understand Soccer