Sport in Argentina: Sports in Society
Argentinean soccer is so popular that it inspires neighborhood, club, provincial, and national spirit, and, unfortunately, often produces violence among fans, especially since the restoration of democratic government in 1983. Soccer has had many connections with Argentinean politics at all levels. The directors of local clubs are elected by their memberships, and party politics commonly play a role in these elections.The president of the Argentinean Football Association (AFA) is usually linked to politics, and the federal government has a history of getting involved in soccer affairs.
National president Juan Perón (1946–1955) used sport to build national spirit and gain support for his government. His government strengthened sport, and the AFA in turn backed Perón in his presidential campaigns. Perón’s popular wife, Eva, promoted participation in sport (including the Evita Youth Championships) as a means of improving young people’s health. Some of the closest connections between soccer and politics occurred during the military dictatorship between 1976 and 1983. The generals wanted good publicity for the 1978 World Cup Finals in Argentina. In an effort to please their own people and impress the visitors, the government spent great amounts of money on infrastructure related to holding the Cup matches, and the (usually violent) neighborhood fan groups were convinced that they should show good manners. Argentina’s World Cup victory in 1978 (as well as their Youth World Cup win in 1979) brought glory to the government and helped cover up the brutal repression it was carrying out during this period.