Soccer Clubs and Politics in the Interwar Period in Buenos Aires

Saturday, January 8, 2011: 9:20 AM
Parliament Room (The Westin Copley Place)
Joel Horowitz , Saint Bonaventure University, St. Bonaventure, NY
In the first several decades of the twentieth century, young men in greater Buenos Aires formed hundreds of clubs in order that they might have teams on which to play soccer. The more successful of these clubs, financially and on the field, survived and became the major soccer clubs that today dominate the game in Argentina. Because they were organized like clubs with elected leadership, they can be considered as civic associations just like the libraries and the sociedades de fomento which have been studied in Argentina in recent years. They were certainly more numerous and had arguably wider impacts. However, unlike what is frequently posited about civic associations, the Buenos Aires clubs frequently did not act as incubators of democratic traditions. Many of the clubs that survived came to be dominated by the politically well connected or by wealthy individuals who could donate their own money. This occurred principally because even in the earliest period of organized leagues it was difficult and expensive to find a place to play. Ultimately, stadiums needed to be built. Only with help from the government or money provided by wealthy leaders could the physical needs of the clubs be met. Instead of permitting the average club members to run the clubs, in order to survive many turned to figures whose importance came initially from outside the club because they could help provide what the clubs needed.