Sports in South America, 1863-1930: Local, National, Transnational and International Histories

Matthew Brown (University of Bristol) discusses the transformation of sporting cultures in South America in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, focusing on transnational connections, the creation of new international sporting competitions and uncovering hidden histories of sporting identities beyond the nation-state.
Sports in South America follows the transformation of sporting cultures in South America leading up to Uruguay’s hosting of the first FIFA Men’s World Cup in 1930. Matthew Brown shows how South American soccer culture, envied worldwide, sprang out of societies that were already playing and watching games well before British sportsmen arrived to teach “the beautiful game.” These vibrant and distinct sporting traditions, including cycling, boxing, cockfighting, bullfighting, cricket, baseball, and horse racing, were marked by South American societies’ Indigenous and colonial pasts and by their leaders’ desire to participate in what they saw as a global movement toward human progress. Drawing on a wealth of original archival research, Brown debunks legends, highlights the stories of forgotten sportswomen and Indigenous sports, and unpacks the social and cultural connections within South America and with the rest of the world.