Feuding Fans of Fútbol: Soccer Culture in Latin America
Sports events are pretty riveting and uplifting for spectators and players alike. In the United States, football is by far the most popular sport. My dad and I have been Packers fans for a long time! It’s always fun to meet people from Chicago and have some friendly banter about the Packers vs. the Bears (the Packers being the better team, of course). Do you have a favorite football team? What do you like about them? In Latin America, the most famous sport is fútbol, which actually translates to “soccer.” As a false cognate in English and Spanish, it has a tendency to confuse new learners of both languages. (The cartoon Teen Titans GO has a funny example.) If you’re in a Spanish-speaking country, going to a fútbol game or watching it in a restaurant is tons of fun!
The Fan Life
Rooting for a sports team gives fans a sense of belonging. Putting on a team jersey, screaming at the top of your lungs, and eating yummy food is half of the fun! The reason I like the Packers so much is because my family has close friends in Wisconsin—who have become more like family than friends—since way before I was born. If you have friends who are into fútbol, ask them what team they’re rooting for! It’s fun to share a team—or even a rivalry.
Fútbol is the most popular sport in Europe and Latinoamérica. The biggest soccer events usually happen in Europe, and some of the best players from Latin America play in European leagues. One of the most popular soccer stars, Lionel Messi, is originally from Argentina. He usually plays for a Spanish team, though. Some fútbol teams are famous across the board, let’s learn about them!
Famous International Teams
Every four years, during the soccer world cup, dozens of countries compete for first place. Most people will root for their home countries, but many people have more than one favorite team. Here are the three most popular countries to root for in the world cup according to FIFA’s website:
Who would’ve thought the land of chocolate and waffles would be the top-ranked team right now?! They have never won a world cup, however. The closest Belgians have gotten to winning the cup was in 2018, with third place. Definitely one of the top contenders for nabbing the next cup.
The French were champions for the first time in 1998, beating Brazil 3-0. They won first place again in 2018, so even if they’re ranked second, there might able a strong rivalry brewing up for the next cup. Will someone beat the defending champion? How exciting!
Brazil has had its ups and downs, but what has remained consistent throughout the years is the love that Brazilians dedicate to the sport. Fútbol is a big part of Brazilian culture, and after winning the world cup five times, they are strong contenders every time the world cup is held.
The Greatest Rivalry in the World
You’ve probably heard about this one: Real Madrid vs. Barcelona. Two fútbol teams from Spain have been duking it out so hard since 1929, an almost 100-year-long feud! The rivalry is as strong as it is because it’s tied to political issues in Spain and has been for a long time. If you ask me, this is a healthy way to deal with tensions within a country—that is, with a game instead of violence. The problem is when violence takes over the game. These infamously brutal games are called El Clásico (The Classic), which specifically refers to every game played between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona.
Fan Rivalry Ensues
This notorious rivalry exists in most of Latin America. Sports restaurants commonly fill up for El Clásico, and team jerseys are a popular fashion item for us to show off team spirit. At a coffee shop on my university campus, they set up two tip jars: one with a sticker for Real Madrid and the other for FC Barcelona! I usually try to put one bill in each jar since I’m not a big foreign soccer fan. That doesn’t mean the games aren’t exciting. As of this moment, Barcelona has won more games than Real Madrid by a one-game lead. Out of 243 matches, Barcelona has won 96 times and Real Madrid, 95. The rest have been draws. That’s impressive!
Just Fans—or Friends?
Knowing a little bit about fútbol can go a long way if you’re trying to get to know most Spanish-speakers better. We might not like the same sports as the United States, but we do share the passion for the game. That passion is created not by the game itself, but by the people that engage in it. You can enjoy fútbol if you engage with the community, and that’s the end goal of any sports event. If you want to learn soccer vocabulary, or be able to order hot dogs to watch your fútbol game, you can take a free Spanish class at HSA and start learning today!
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