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MAXIMILIAN VIATORI Iowa State University
Figure 1. Caption: A motorcycle fan with his head shaved in a soccer ball pattern, Quito. Photo by author.
occer is just soccer, right? Wrong, replied Spanish journalist Enric González who covered the Italian soccer league for Spain’s largest newspaper El Pais from 2003 to 2007. Soccer is more than a public exhibition of athletic skill—it is an integral part of many nations’ “collective memory” (González 2007:24). Anthropologists have also noted the importance of soccer for symbolizing local identities and displaying national pride. For example, Alessandra Miklavcic (2008) demonstrates that a recent soccer match between Italy and Slovenia reignited nationalist passions and historical grudges over the countries’ shared border. In Australia, Loring Danforth (2001) shows that soccer has been an important vehicle for the expresCity & Society, Vol. 20, Issue 2, pp. 275–281, ISSN 0893-0465, eISSN 1548-744X. © 2008 by the American Anthropological Association. All rights reserved. DOI: 10.1111/j.1548-744X.2008.00020.x.
2 Coverage of the World Cup dominated the front pages of Ecuador’s most prominent newspaper. the longest running soccer tournament in South America. In contrast. the owners of these clubs have argued that their teams are vital symbols of Australia’s multicultural nationalism. Soccer has a long history in Ecuador and represents an important aspect of social life. the conservative El Comercio. which reached an apex in 1999 when Ecuador’s largest banks collapsed.City & Society sion of competing versions of nationalism. In a similar vein. one in which renewed national unity would enable it to compete on the global playing ﬁeld (El Comercio 2006a. Caption: A homeless boy plays soccer in front of an expensive Quito leagues. and 276 . Ecuador qualiﬁed only once for the World Cup—losing two of its three games during the 2002 competition hosted by South Korea and Japan.1 Ecuador’s 2006 tournament berth sparked public celebrations across the country as well as declarations by politicians and pundits that the Ecuadorian team’s success represented the country’s future. Ecuador’s best ﬁnish in the Copa America. the national team’s games are consistently the most-watched television programs in Ecuador. This was an appealing message after two decades of structural adjustment programs led the country into an economic crisis. petes with soccer for dominance. the country has struggled to compete against soccer giants like Argentina. Despite Ecuador’s love affair with soccer. was fourth place in 1993. Photo by author. According to Danforth. 2006d). Uruguay and the perennially dominant Brazil. traditional elites have used soccer to further a narrative of Australia as a racially homogenous nation by banning “ethnic” soccer clubs—those associated with different immigrant populations—from playing in the National League. sometimes drawing as much as 90 percent of the country’s viewers (Radcliffe and Westwood 1996:93). In contrast. No other sport comshopping center. Before 2006. The Federation of Ecuadorian Soccer was founded in 1925 and the country now has more than twenty professional clubs divided into two Figure 2. Brazil has qualiﬁed for every Soccer World Cup and won the tournament’s golden trophy a record ﬁve times. Ecuador’s qualiﬁcation for the 2006 World Cup marked an important moment for “narrating the nation” in this small South American country (Bhabha 1990).
After Ecuador advanced to the playoffs.Soccer Nationalism: Ecuador and the World Cup Figure 3. Nonetheless. the President quickly dispatched 20. showing off a jersey signed by the Ecuadorian team. he granted an asueto (little holiday) so that Ecuadorians could celebrate with a shortened work day. some whitemestizo elites have continued to resist the idea of ethnic and racial plurality as a basis for national identity. Photo by author. Yet the fact that most of Ecuador’s star World Cup players were Afro-Ecuadorian undermined visions of 277 . Proclamations of national unity during the World Cup were little more than thinly-veiled political rhetoric. many of whom gathered in the same places where protestors called for the removal of Palacio’s predecessor the year before (El Comercio 2006b). Then interim President Alfredo Palacio even joined the party. Ecuador revised its constitution to recognize the country’s multiethnic make-up. One article reported that Indigenous communities in several northern provinces had suspended their celebration of Inti Raymi—the solstice—to watch the playoff game between Ecuador and England (El Comercio 2006f).000 police with helicopters to monitor the revelers. After declaring his support for World Cup celebrations. In 1998. defending their privileged position in Ecuadorian society. editorials admonished the country’s citizens to put aside the race and class differences that had “impeded” national uniﬁcation. Another praised residents in the community of Juncal—the home town of Ecuador’s star veteran player. boys in a poor neighborhood in the provincial city of Puyo play soccer in the street long after sunset. [and] lack of basic services and got animated for the team” (El Comercio 2006e). Caption: Celebrating Ecuador’s win against Costa Rica.3 The 2006 Soccer World Cup provided an important moment for Ecuador’s elites to reassert a narrative of Ecuadorian nationalism rooted in internal homogeneity. Agustín Delgado—who “forgot their poverty. however. one that conveniently glossed over differences in race and gender.
According to Jean Muteba Rahier (2008:622). quickly melding into rivers of yellow.City & Society Ecuador as a homogenous nation. Magazine 2007).g. Photo by author. a symbol of “country and team” second only to the ﬂag—acted as a token of difference as much as an emblem of unity. As such. One reporter remarked that after Ecuador’s win against Costa Rica. produced 278 . where the differences among following Ecuador’s win against Costa Rica. Photo by author. America (e. Quito. The Ecuadorian national jersey—according to the aforementioned reporter. Besides reproducing race and gender inequalities. World Cup celebrations renewed class inequalities in subtle but noticeable ways. thus perpetuating the ofﬁcial invisibility of blackness in the Ecuadorian nation. as the photos in this essay attest. Likewise. them vanished (El Comercio 2006b). white-mestizos dealt with this visible contradiction by ignoring the race of Ecuador’s players in published commentary on the World Cup. fans took to the streets. Soccer is considered a masculine sport in Ecuador Figure 4. red and blue (the national colors) Figure 5. declaring soccer a source of national character largely excluded women from active participation in the nationas-a-game. celebrations of soccer as a symbol of Ecuadorian identity quietly naturalized “the national” as a decidedly male space. The ofﬁcially-sanctioned jersey. Caption: Local news stations cover festivities on Amazonas Avenue. Journalists and bloggers focused almost exclusively on aspects of the sport that appeared to index white-mestizo society. Caption: A recent college graduate displays his ofﬁcial team jersey at the and throughout much of Latin hotel where he works near downtown Quito. The majority of players and fans at all levels of the game are men.
by Marathon Sports (an Ecuadorian-based multinational). fans were distinguished in ways that echoed enduring disparities within the Ecuadorian nation state. Photo by author. rather than disappearing into a yellow clad utopia. Quito. Figure 7. In a country where 51 percent of the population lives below the poverty line (most of whom are Indigenous). Photo by author. In the end. buying Marathon shirts for themselves and relatives abroad.4 While a small number of upper and middle class Ecuadorians engaged in acts of patriotic consumption. most settled for cheap knockoffs sold on street corners and open air markets for a few dollars (El Comercio 2006c). Quito.90 in upscale malls in Ecuador’s largest cities. Caption: The day after Ecuador lost to England and was knocked out of the playoffs an Indigenous shoeshine boy watches as the ﬂag is raised over a military exercise in front of the national capitol. Soccer Nationalism: Ecuador and the World Cup Figure 6. retailed for US $29. Caption: World Cup soccer on TV. and the average monthly salary in 2006 was US $237. 279 . this symbol of national identity was hardly accessible to most (El Comercio 2006c).
2006. Electronic document. June 26. 2006.elcomercio. 2006. In Nation and Narration.com.com. June 20. Lucio Gutiérrez. 2006. www. Electronic document. www. June 15.org for statistics on Ecuador’s annual GNI. was removed from ofﬁce in April 2005 by mass protests against his policies of neoliberal economic adjustment and heavy-handed clientelism in national politics. 2006e El Juncal Celebró la Actuación de la Tri (El Juncal Celebrated the Tri’s Performance).elcomercio. Accessed July 2. Forment (2007) provides an important look at the role that soccer has played in Argentina’s local politics following that country’s ﬁnancial crisis in 2001. 2006d La Tri y el Libre Mercado (The Tri and the Free Market).worldbank.elcomercio. June 15. Electronic document. www. Burbano de Lara. Accessed July 2. Accessed July 2. Danforth. Felipe 2005 La caída de Gutiérrez y la rebelión de abril (The Fall of Gutiérrez and the Abril Rebellion). June 20.com. Electronic document. El Comercio 2006a Un Fervor que Convoca a la Nación (A Fervor that Summons the Nation). Accessed July 2. Electronic document.com. 4 See devdata. 2006c Los Migrantes tras las Camisetas de la Tri (Migrants in Search of Tri Jerseys). www. Argentina and Uruguay have each won the World Cup twice. Íconos 23:19–26.elcomercio. www. He completed less than three years of his four year term and was replaced by his Vice President.com.City & Society Notes Acknowledgments. Accessed June 30.elcomercio. June 26. 2 1 References Cited Bhabha. London and New York: Routledge.000 Policias Vigilan Festejos por Triunfo Ecuador (20 Thousand Police Watch Over Festivities for Ecuador’s Triumph). 1–7. Electronic document. ed.com. 2006. 1990 Introduction: Narrating the Nation. Homi K. Palacio. 2001 Is the “World Game” an “Ethnic Game” or an “Aussie Game”? Narrating the Nation in Australian Soccer. 280 . 3 Ecuador’s previous president. Accessed July 2. Felipe Burbano de Lara (2005) provides a good overview of the April protests. 2006. Loring M. Bhabha. 2006f El Juego contra Inglaterra Alteró la Programación de Inti Raymi (The Game against England Altered Inti Raymi Festivities). American Ethnologist 28(2):363–387. www. Pp. 2006b 20. Homi K.elcomercio. I owe special thanks to Travis Hartman for his help editing and selecting the ﬁnal photographs for this essay.
Miklavcic. Sarah and Sallie Westwood 1996 Remaking the Nation: Place. Radcliffe. American Ethnologist 35(3):440–453. Discurso & Sociedad 2(3):609–641. London and New York: Routledge. Youth.Forment. González. Alessandra 2008 Slogans and Grafﬁti: Postmemory among Youth in the Italo-Slovenian Borderland.A. Jean Muteba 2008 El Mundial del Fútbol 2006 y la Selección Ecuatoriana: Discurso de Alteridad en la Internet y en la Prensa (The 2006 Soccer World Cup and the Ecuadorian Team: Discourse of Alterity on the Internet and in the Press). Carlos A. Roger 2007 Golden and Blue like My Heart: Masculinity. Rahier. Identity and Politics in Latin America. Soccer Nationalism: Ecuador and the World Cup 281 . Enric 2007 Historias del Calcio: Una crónica de Italia a través del Fútbol (Soccer Tales: A Chronicle of Italy through Football). and Buenos Aires’ Municipal Election of 2003. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. Public Culture 19(1):85–116. and Power among Soccer Fans in Mexico City. 2007 The Democratic Dribbler: Football Clubs. Magazine. Neoliberal Globalization. S. Barcelona: RBA Libros.
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