Temples of the Earthbound Gods

Stadiums in the Cultural Landscapes of Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires

Christopher Thomas Gaffney, 2008, University of Texas Press

Usually the stadiums which host a soccer game do not draw a lot of attention on themselves neither from the journalists nor the fans. Some of them like the Camp Nou or the Maracana are known by name, which is connected with the history and tradition of their home teams, but most of them have today a sponsor’s name which is changing regularly, therefore they do not become part of the lore and legends of the club which plays in them.
Gaffney writes in his book about the stadiums of two of the major cities in South America, from the number of people living in them but also the soccer culture and history of the continent. He describes the history of soccer in both cities and then describes what influence society had on the fan culture and vice versa.
It is interesting to read of the slight differences between Brasil and Argentina. In the first the soccer club and also the national team are important for belonging to a neighborhood or of being a nation. Therefore the status of the people joining the club doesn’t matter so much. Fluminense , e.g., is a club which originally was a club of the aristocrats and the club shows that even today with their mascots and songs, although now the majority of their fans comes from the lower class, because the neighborhood changed. Vasco da Gama is still referring to the Portuguese culture and immigrants in general, because it was founded by immigrants. The clubs are representatives of the area they come from and therefore they are also part of the political system and politicians use the clubs to get votes in their districts.
In Argentina however soccer is clearly the sport of the lower classes because the upper class goes to Polo and the middle class to Rugby games because soccer games are too dangerous to watch. How Gaffney describes, the stadium in Argentina is much more a place where men gather and meet and women are hardly seen. The game between the two clubs is not only seen as fight of two neighborhoods but about manhood and who is more masculine. Therefore violence between fans is far more common and also the players on the field act way more aggressively, as one can often see from the Argentinian national team. The reason for that, explains Gaffney, is that in the nineteenth century a lot more male immigrants than women came into the country, therefore men had a harder time finding and fighting for a women and therefore the stadium became an open space in the city, which allowed that fights in a ritualized form around the soccer games. The space in the city was far more segregated with distinct places for men and women and especially the stadium allowed men to freely express their emotions. Therefore the aggressive fighting became an elemental part of the soccer culture in Argentina.
Gaffneys books allows interesting insights in two South American soccer nations and covers areas, especially of the fan culture, which are not much explored in general but would provide valuable insights why soccer became such a dominant game with such fanatic fans, which is hardly matched by any other type of sport.

Biography: 0/3
History: 2/3
Background: 3/3
Tactics & Game philosophy: 0/3

Next book: Dresden – Wiege des Fußballs (German)

This post should have come out beginning of February. I don’t know what happenend that it didn’t but here it is now.


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