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Immigrant pride and working-class thrift

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Tim Vickery | 10:32 UK time, Monday, 12 April 2010

A century ago when the Velez Sarsfield club was founded in Argentina their shirts were plain white - the cheapest they could find. Then they went with stripes of red, green and white - a tribute to the Italian origins of the club's founders.

Finally they settled on the current strip - which, with a blue V on a white background looks like something out of rugby league. This is no coincidence. The story goes that they were offered a good deal on the shirts, which a rugby club had ordered and not bothered to collect.

The tale of Velez and their changing strip, with its conflict between immigrant pride and working-class thrift, tells us much about the early years of the sport in Argentina.

Leandro Somoza on the ball for Velez
Club Atletico Velez Sarsfield was founded in 1910 and is now based in the Liniers neighbourhood of Buenos Aires

Football is the game of the city and one of the reasons that it developed so quickly in this part of the world is that its introduction coincided with rapid urbanisation.

In 1880 the population of Buenos Aires was just over 300,000. Thirty years later, when Velez were born, it was 1.3m. A huge proportion of this extra million were immigrants, pouring in from Europe and the Middle East, and especially from Italy.

Buenos Aires is a city that speaks Spanish with a strong Italian intonation. Even today it is a battleground in Italian elections and Italians settled elsewhere in the continent - Montevideo in Uruguay and parts of Brazil, especially Sao Paulo.

When Italy won the World Cup in 1934 they made full use of the South American connection. Three Italian-descended Argentines were roped in. Midfield hard man Luis Monti had even played for Argentina in the 1930 final and Raimondo Orsi had been snatched after starring for Argentina in the 1928 Olympics. He was Italy's top scorer in the 1934 campaign, while his compatriot Enrico Guaita grabbed the only goal of the semi-final.

Italy line up for the 1934 World Cup Final
Italy's line up for the 1934 World Cup Final included Luis Monti (2nd L), Raimondo Orsi (5th L), and Enrico Guaita (7th L)

There was a Brazilian in the squad as well, 'Filo' Guarisi and four years later Italy successfully defended their title, this time with a Uruguayan, Michele Andreolo, in their midfield.

After that, though, it was a long time before Italy had anything to shout about in the World Cup - although they continued to attract top-quality South Americans. In 1962, for example, the Azzuri's centre forward was Altafini, part of Brazil's World Cup-winning squad four years earlier. Behind him they had Maschio and the great Sivori, plucked from the Argentina side that won the 1957 Copa America but the team still failed.

Sandro Mazzola, one of Italy's greats of the 60s and early 70s, has argued that part of the problem was the presence of these foreigners.

Selecting them in the 1930s had worked because the immigration process was so recent but a few decades later it was different. The South Americans could no longer be seen as genuine Italians and perhaps any gains in quality were more than offset by the loss of team cohesion.

Immigration, of course, is a dynamic process - one celebrated in the famous Buenos Aires derby between River Plate and Boca Juniors.

The two giants share similar origins. Both grew up in the working-class Boca neighbourhood, where millions of immigrants toiled on the docks. Over time, River moved out to the leafy suburbs, while Boca stayed defiantly put.

Confetti before the Boca Juniors v River Plate derby
At time of writing, Boca lead River 120-104, with 102 draws, in the Superclasico Buenos Aires derby

River, then, had lived out the immigrant dream of moving up in the world. Boca could find solace in working-class sweat and solidarity. They, too, were founded by Italians but these days there are not too many Italians living in the area's ramshackle housing. The more recent waves of immigration have come from Bolivia and Paraguay - which the River fans love to dwell on as they taunt their old rivals.

From the poorest countries in the continent, the Bolivians and Paraguayans have followed the traditional immigrant path, moving in search of opportunities. In football terms, this movement has yet to have significant consequences for the Bolivian national team but the same cannot be said for Paraguay.

Midfielders Jonathan Santana and Nestor Ortigoza are examples of players born in Argentina to one Paraguayan parent. They sound like Argentines, they don't speak Guarani (the indigenous language proudly spoken in Paraguay alongside Spanish) and they almost certainly grew up dreaming of playing for Argentina but now they represent Paraguay.

It is, though, a struggle for them to be accepted. Paraguay's Argentine coach Gerardo Martino told me last week that dealing with this subject "is not easy". He added: "I see it [the difficulty of acceptance] less as a consequence of nationalism, more in terms of footballing taste. The discussion centres around whether the player is considered good enough."

Events last week may have proved him right. Another Argentine-born player became eligible for the country of his mother's birth when Lucas Barrios took out Paraguayan citizenship.

An ungainly striker - he can look as if he is wading through water in ill-fitting Wellingtons - Barrios is highly effective. After breaking scoring records in Chile with Colo Colo he is now doing well in Germany for Borussia Dortmund.

Until recently Barrios was campaigning for an Argentina call-up. Even so, opinion in Paraguay seems to be in favour of his selection. His goalscoring pedigree makes it easier for him to be accepted.

Perhaps, like the South American Italians of the 30s, the old country will embrace Lucas Barrios as long as he can help deliver success.

Comments on the piece in the space provided. Other questions on South American football to vickerycolumn@hotmail.com and I'll pick out a couple for next week.

From last week's postbag:

Q) I was wondering what the options are for Argentina in terms of wingers. Having frequently watched Newcastle and seen Jonas Gutierrez I am amazed that he is set to start for Argentina in South Africa. For all of his runs he seems to have very little end product, both in terms of goals and assists. Surely there must be better options for Maradona?
Chris Moore

A) The winger is on the other flank - Di Maria. It seems to be that the selection of Gutierrez is a measure aimed at achieving defensive balance. With an attacking trident of Messi, Higuain and Di Maria, and Veron behind them to orchestrate, Maradona appears to be keen on the ability of Gutierrez to run and cover - not only down the flank, but also inside to give Mascherano a hand.

Q) I remember seeing Carlos Alberto playing for Porto a few times, and remembered being really impressed with him every time I saw him, including a Champions League Final goal. The ball seemed to stick to him and he had a really good buzz about him at such a young age, is he still alive, as I expected a big future for him in Europe.
Paul Crawford

A) It's indicative of the genius of Jose Mourinho that he managed to get such value from the talent of Carlos Alberto.
Few others have been able to. His last spell in Europe was a disaster. He came back from Werder Bremen in Germany suffering from insomnia.
He faces a big season now. He's at Vasco da Gama, helped them win promotion last year, and when the first division kicks off in a couple of weeks he'll be expected to produce, which means that he'll have to show that he's learned that football is a team game.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Interesting column. What are the origins Tim of one of the other Buenos Aires clubs Banfield? They traditionally play in white and green and previous strips have included the shamrock. Is this indicative of irish/celtic heritage? From memory there is some link between the club and Britain and if this is correct then does the club still emphasise its British history especially bearing in mind that there is a great deal of anti-British sentiment due to the on-going saga of Las Malvinas?

  • Comment number 2.

    nice blog
    even today i c enough argentinians of italian descent like zanetti,camoranesi and i bet messi has some italian blood aswell

  • Comment number 3.

    Hi Tim, very enjoyable blog as always.

    I'm curious as to what your opinion on players representing country's through nationality gained solely via residency is?

    It seems a habbit that many countries embrace, some through the need to supplement a weak squad, others becase they just don't seem to see any issue with it.

    I'm thinking of players like Senna for Spain, Deco for Portugal and Eduardo for Croatia (all co-incidentally from Brazil.) None of these nations are what you'd call weaker sides so it seems to be a cultural thing rather than selection through nessecity.

    I ask because the English FA and arguably the English public seem so resistant to the idea. It seems hard to believe that players such as Di Canio, Arteta or Almunia (we've tried every other keeper!) would not have been capped for England at some point had they English parents or even grandparents like Owen Hargreaves.

    Also what is the perception of players like Deco and Senna (who cannot have been far off Brazil call ups) back in Rio and beyond?

  • Comment number 4.

    That was a fantastic post. Very well-written, inspired and great topic. Top of the bunch. We think this issue/fall of nationalism in international football is something new but it has been going on since the game has been played, mirroring society as football always does. I liked the Mazzola comment and it is an interesting idea how the presence of "nationalised" foreigners can hinder team cohesion. As a Brazilian, I'm always curious to see how the Portuguese fare with our contribution. I know that over here we surely would not accept a foreign player into our ranks.
    Regarding Paraguay, I'd point out to South American history to explain a possible rejection to those Argentines. I believe some Paraguayans are still somewhat resentful of Brazil and Argentina because of the 19th century Paraguayan war, much like Poles, French and other European nations still bear a bit of grudge towards Germans. Neverthless success is still football's official language, thus prolific Argentine forwards are welcomed in Assuncion.
    Regarding #3 Joe G's comments, I have to say there's no perception towards Senna. He did play for a big club here, Corinthians, without acclaim and nobody followed his progress in Spain until his call up. Regarding Deco, he left the country too early. I believe both of them raised questions at the 2006 WC when they were at their peak and better than Emerson and Gilberto.

  • Comment number 5.

    I remember when Deco was first called to represent Portugal, it was met with a large degree of cynicism, not least of all from Luis Figo who felt he had no right to represent Portugal.

    I'd be interested in whether that attitude has changed at all now that fellow Brazilians Pepe and Liedson also represent Portugal.

    Indeed with so many Brazilians representing adopted countries (Senna, Eduardo, Mehmet Aurellio, Cacau and almost Amauri too) it speaks for the quality that Brazil produces. I would imagine that a Brazil 'C team' would still pose a strong challenge against the top international teams.

  • Comment number 6.

    I've been following Tim's blog for about six months now , and it's never failed to please my eyes with interesting topics which are also beatifully written.
    With regards to this topic, all I have to say is that, as an argentine,
    I feel quite puzzled about Messi's situation. I'm sure he feels far more
    catalan than argentine, and I don't blame him at all. The roads of his
    life have led him to Barcelna, and that city is now his hometown. Does he really feel argentine? Could he really feel the colours of my country
    running through his veins? IT is indeed, a quite confusing situation.
    Meanwhile, I will still keep on enjoying his football whichever team or
    nation he plays for.

    Salut,
    Luciano

  • Comment number 7.

    I can imagine that the Brazilian attitude to their players representing other countries is 'good luck to them' as they aren't players that would've been Brazilian stars anyway.

    But I've just noticed an interesting sub-plot to Brazil's WC group.

    I wonder what the reaction would be if, Liedson was to score against them for Portugal and knock Brazil out of the World Cup?

    Surely he would be branded a traitor?

  • Comment number 8.

    #6 Luciano
    I don't know. Obviously I've never met Messi, but all press reports state that he is firmly Argentinian. Speaks with Argentinian accent, watches Argie TV (bit irrelevant) and eats Argie meat (less irrelevant). Plus it is reported he had continuously rejected every single Spain youth side in order to play for Argentina. He can't play well for his country because the side is a mess, whereas Barça has the best platform for the best player to shine. The great Tostão always says that "craques" (or "cracks" for you)fulfill their potential when they have better units to support them.
    Remember that Messi was imperious on the U17 and U20 Pekerman-styled Argentinian sides. I seriously doubt he feels more Catalan.

  • Comment number 9.

    //6 Joao,

    I wasn't actually talking about his performance but about the true feelings of football players who leave their countries at such a young
    age. They are more likely to live far more time in a different country,
    how are we supposed to ask them to feel argentine, brazilian or paraguayan , if they don't even
    know or remember what their own country look like?

  • Comment number 10.

    Luciano, I think you are underestimating the power infancy has on all of us. Your experiences as a child will mold the rest of your life. Will define who you are, your best memories, etc. The very experience of time is different depending on your age. For children, each year seems like 5 adult years. They have this completely different perception of the passage of time. (psychologists and neurologists can probably explain it better)

    Living till your 14th year in Argentina will define you as an Argentine. Definitly.

    ps: Viggo Mortensen to this day identifies himself with Argentina quite a lot (drinks mate and roots for San Lorenzo), despite having an american mother and danish father, because he lived there from 3 to 11 years old.

  • Comment number 11.

    "Sandro Mazzola, one of Italy's greats of the 60s and early 70s, has argued that part of the problem was the presence of these foreigners"

    Tim I trust you know that foreigners were banned from Serie A from 1966-1980 after the North Korea debacle in 1966 and then coincidently won the world cup in '82 with players bread in that era. What it means I don't know but it's interesting given your quote...

  • Comment number 12.

    On the naturalisation debate, I'm confused why Brazil/Argentina don't cap more players just to stop rivals from Europe getting them. Take Brazil if they capped Deco then he would never have been available to plug the creativity gap that Portugal have in their midfield and wouldn't be a threat to them in the upcoming world cup. The point is a player may not be good enough for you but at the same time they could be the difference between a rival having a weak link in a specific position or not. In a way it's the same logic as to why big clubs buy players to stick on their benches.

    For me international football should be a test of which country is the best at football and as footballers are generally "made" (by that I mean having the tools isn't enough, you need direction) then surely playing players that aren't even from your country or weren't raised in your football system defeats the point of international football and is meaningless in the grand scheme of things as it reflects nothing, at least that's how it looks to me.

  • Comment number 13.

    Glad to see the current questions about Enlish Scottish Irish and even Spanish or German players are not new ones, Podolski for example, or the lack of an English goalkeeper.
    To those question a players nationality when he has lived abroad, I can only tell you my story. I am away from home for 7 years now. I have finally put down roots in this new place. But although my perception of what it means when I use my nationality has changed, I will always be, and always have my countries blood flowing through my viens , my spirit, and my outlook on life.

  • Comment number 14.

    A blog inspired by a bloggers comments? - Sergio's musings on Fabbro and Barrios I'm estimating.

    I find this all very interesting, but equally, all very political. Football cannot govern the laws of nationality, they are equal to all persons in that state.

    While I'd love to say it doesn't matter, one world, I believe there need to be a universal test to establish the right to a nationality, and as I've stated before this could be similar to the HABITUAL RESIDENCE TEST, used in the UK to establish legitimacy to benefit.

    Nowadays, you cannot represent another nation, having already played a full match for one, but this has lead to young players seemingly 'choosing' between countries...which is still a bit dodgy.

  • Comment number 15.

    Hi Tim,, Just want to say how much I enjoy reading your articles about south american football. My father who was Galician used to tell my how the italian squad was made up of argentinians and it was down to them that they won the World Cup in '34 and '38! Then again Di Stefano did represent Spain in '62 but to not much affect.

    With regards to people from Buenos Aires, I have quite a few cousins who live in and around the city, and when they speak, they sound like to me more gallego than italian in their intonation(Which is why when argentinians refer to spaniards, they call them gallegos due to the large number of immigrants from Galicia.

    Keep up the good work!!

  • Comment number 16.

    Very interesting Tim.

    As for Messi I can definitely confirm he speaks with an argentine accent and I have never hear him mutter a word of catalan. He clearly wants to play for Argentina although I am sure he won't see Spain as any other opposition.

    I can relate. I am Dutch but have lived in Barcelona since I was nine. I support both countries fairly evenly and just hope that they won't meet at the World Cup.

  • Comment number 17.

    Tim (or any Paraguayans for that matter).

    How do Paraguayans feel about the influx of Argentines in their national side? I'm interested to know as I see the parallels between English cricket and the number of South Africans in the national side (Pietersen, Kieswetter and Trott). These guys have received a mixed reaction from England fans, is it the same in Paraguay?

  • Comment number 18.

    I wasn't actually talking about his performance but about the true feelings of football players who leave their countries at such a young
    age. They are more likely to live far more time in a different country,
    how are we supposed to ask them to feel argentine, brazilian or paraguayan , if they don't even
    know or remember what their own country look like?
    ______________________________________________________________

    I believe that a player should represent the footballing culture that produced him, irrespective of where he, or his parents were born. Messi is Barca through and through. I am not too sure that he would fit into the Spain side though..
    Immigration status plays no role really. What is important is where you played when you were 10 to 17 years old.

  • Comment number 19.

    #18 Interesting, but why 10-17? You can play football before this. Messi does have Italian ancestry, and left for Spain at 11, but he was born in Argentina and spent formative years there, he visits a lot and holds a passport, do you deny him a national identity?

  • Comment number 20.

    great blog tim .. just want to know what u feel of south american teams chances at the worldcup ? no european has ever won the worldcup outside europe and that gives the south americans some extra boost to win the wcup ....
    And ,, can messi be called the greatest ever even if he has never won the worldcup in his career with argentina ?

  • Comment number 21.

    If Messi was in the Spain side that would be scary. If you imagine where Santi Carloza played in the Euros, he's surely fit in quite happily. Even now that Spain midfield looks impressive choosing between Xavi/ Iniesta/ Alonso/ Senna/ Silva/ Fabregas/ Busquets etc. Perhaps not having a true star in the Messi mould will help Spain. They have quality everywhere, and on the bench. I'm really looking forward to seeing them.

    Of course, like many, I'm not sure of the Argentinians, I think the Gutierrez point highlights that they do have weaknesses. Brazil in 2002 and Maradona himself in '86 prove that a dodgy qualification can be overcome but I doubt Maradona has the stragetic nouse that Scolari had to built a team rather than a collection of stars (himself being of the star variety to start with). I'd love to proved wrong.

    Tim do you see Maradona as a team builder? Could the focus on his own antics actually take the pressure off someone like Messi? I fear he's too tempestuous to keep his cool through a World Cup, he's going to explode at some point. Dunga is surely the opposite in this regard. And Del Bosque has seen it all before. But if Messi performs in the right team you can throw all sense out the window. He's wildcard.

  • Comment number 22.

    I think the stuff on Messi being Catalan is well over-stated, and the idea that he is a product of Barcelona even more so.
    I think he was 13 when he went - and the talent was all there already - as the Barca people recognise.
    His genius - the ability to run with the ball tied to his feet, to change direction at pace, to do the unexpected - there's not an academy in the world that can teach this. This is pure natural ability, developed, in traditional Argentine style, in informal games.

    and 15 - di stefano didn't get on the field in the 62 world cup - can't blame him for spain's failure!

  • Comment number 23.

    Great blog as usual Tim. I remember the Velez team of the mid 1990s really well, with the inimitable Chilavert leading the way.

    Do you think it's fair to say that their coach at that time, Carlos Bianchi, is probably the greatest South American club coach of his generation, at least when you look at results on the continent? I'm amazed that things haven't worked out for him in Europe, but perhaps the clubs he chose after his successes with Velez and Boca (Roma and Atletico Madrid) weren't the most stable at the time.

    Do you think it's too late for him to make an impact in Europe? Do you think a big club over here would take a punt on him again? As I say, his record in South America is formidable in terms of domestic and continental (Libertadores) success.

    www.twoyellowcards.co.uk

  • Comment number 24.

    I think there a big differences between the FA and the ECB, the ECB recognises players who have English nationality as English, the FA we are yet to find out how they act in that sort of area though I'm sure there are legal barriers to them saying 'No'. I don't think there's been that much of a backlash towards picking the South African born players in cricket, it's overstated and just used as a criticism when those players or the team perform poorly (which has not really been that often recently :))

    Tim would you not think that there is a similar attitude towards players born elsewhere in both Paraguay and England? Is it not just that the England manager has not had to make a decision like that yet?

  • Comment number 25.

    It is not really up to the coaches, who generally pick the best players regardless. John Barnes, Jamaican until late adolescence, but thankfully we haven't had a racist England coach.

    It is for the authorities and the players themselves to determine eligibility. In UK we could have strange incidences like Almunia playing for England because of EU law, but I'm not sure what factors entitle you to Paraguayan nationality, maybe somebody can enlighten?

  • Comment number 26.

    Good old wikipedia;

    Foreigners may apply for Paraguayan citizenship if they meet the following criteria:

    * being older than 18 years old
    * permanent resident in Paraguay for more than 3 years
    * working in either a professional field, an office, in science, art or industry
    * having a good behavior following the law.

  • Comment number 27.

    Great read as per usual. Couple of things to add on some of the views here.

    Wasn't the situation with Messi and his ilk something Jose Marie Pekerman foresaw when he was youth coach of Argentina? That is he realised that young talent would be whisked off to Europe mid or pre-puberty and so got them into the Argentine system asap so as to fervour their love of their country and not let them get tempted by other countries when they inevitabley had a European passport whiffed under their noses.

    Also it is interesting you talk about Italy's use of foreigners with Italian heritage (and yes Messi has some, as do Zanetti, Crespo, Cambiasso, Mascherano and many others). Today Amauri finally received his Italian passport and the talk inevitably and immediately turned to whether the useless lump would get selected for the World Cup squad. Quite why Marcello Lippi would chose a striker who has scored only five this season, lost all his pace and needs two wingers to get the best out of him, I don't know. Would be interesting to hear what they think of him back in Brazil.

    As for England and the use of non-born Englishmen, I believe there is an agreement between the four home associations not to use them. Hence why Capello hasn't chosen Almunia and why Scotland got shot down when they wanted to cap Nacho Novo.

  • Comment number 28.

    Great blog Tim! It reminds me of alot of English born players representing the Republic Of Ireland.

    To name a few, Phil Babb, Andy Townsend, John Aldridge and Tony Cascarino.

    Vinne Jones who I believe maybe myth or true tried every nation in the UK and Ireland to end up to play for Wales.

    Very interesting!

  • Comment number 29.

    well quite an interesting read this blog is!

    - messi is argentine through and through, not all barca. i agree with tim's assessment where messi's natural ability comes from. la pulga still gets very irritated when argentine press question his form for albiceleste. it's a puzzle that ironically, only maradona can seemingly solve. if messi plays like he does for barca, there is NO ONE who can stop argentina from winning this tournament

    - speaking of naturalisation, amauri just obtained italian citizenship. he has brasilian back ground, but given his form this season especially, i'm not sure if he was even considered for a call up. i don't think lippi would do that either

    - paraguay could sure use barrios as attacking option forward. with the legit cabanas unlikely to play an important role for paraguay, it would be wrong to place the scoring responsibililty only on santa cruz. they did well in qualifying hope that it will continue in the world cup

    - think we will continue to see italian influence in argentine footballers for some more time to come, but not the other way round. just my 2 cents

  • Comment number 30.

    Well, this nationality thing is getting a bit out of hand, but if the person carries that nation's heritage through his descendency (parents, grandparents), then he/she is entitled to play for the country. The Paraguayans might have an issue with Santana and Barrios not speaking Guarani, but both of them are surely more Paraguayan than the Brazilian who has been tearing the National league apart for the past 5 years.
    Which leads to the next point: how do we measure or curb this nationalization process? The law varies according to each country. It's a joke in Spain, anyone can be a citizen after 2 years citizenship. Hence, the Spanish teams force the Brazilians to acquire Spanish citizenship so they can buy more Brazilians!
    I believe some sort of National Test as mentioned by one Brit above would be better. I'm Brazilian and I find it a bit of a joke that we qualify near a full squad within the other WC nations

  • Comment number 31.

    #30 brilliant post, how about these current internationals in a 3-5-2..

    Goalkeeper - Danilo Clementino
    Defenders - Pepe, Marcus Tulio Tanaka, Marcus Gonzalez
    Wing backs - Roger Guerreiro, Francileudo Santos (attacking i know!)
    Holding midfielders - Marcos Senna, Mehmet Aurelio
    In the hole - Deco
    Forwards - Eduardo, Kuranyi

    And that's before Amauri. I call my team 'born in Brazil'!

  • Comment number 32.

    31 - What a side! They should play each other the Brazil and the Brazilian born players

  • Comment number 33.

    #31 Dr Wang
    Ahaha, nice one!
    Although I have no idea who Danilo Clementino or Marcus Gonzalez are!
    I do remember at the time of the Beijing 2008 Olympics, the Brazilian team played an obscure warm up game against Vietnam. And their keeper was called Phan van Santos, which is just ridiculous version for Fabio dos Santos! Bizarre stuff!
    Anyways, I'd add subs to your squad:
    defenders: Fabiano Santacroce
    midfielders: Benny Failhaber, Thiago Motta and Rodrigo Possebon (last two are traitors eager to get Italian call-ups)
    forward: Liedson
    It's fair to say that Kuranyi is barely Brazilian. He just happened to be there when he was born! Although he grew up in Brazil. Which is different from Failhaber and Santacroce, who despite having Brazilian mothers, grew up abroad.
    Then there's the Roger Guerreiro and Mehmet Aurelio cases which are just border line ridiculous. The guy even changed his name!

  • Comment number 34.

    Nothing else to say apart from I really enjoyed reading your blog.
    Thanks Tim.

  • Comment number 35.

    Fantastic blog Tim... really enjoyed it. The culture of South America, and especially that of Argentina, really fascinates me. I've always struggled with the 'clipped' Argentinian accent, and I've always been intrigued by the ancestry of certain players. Olarticoechea is one that springs to mind, with what I'm presuming must be some kind of Basque ancestry, and of course the almost ubiquitous Italian lineage that you describe. It reminds me of the old joke, which says something like 'Mexicans descended from the Aztecs, Peruvians descended from the Incas, and the Argentinians descended from... the boats.' (Apologies if that's the wrong way round...)

    Not to be a geek, but is there any literature you might recommend on this or a similar subject?

  • Comment number 36.

    Great as usual Tim, you forgot to mention Claudio Morel among the Argentines in the Paraguayan squad. While on the subject did you know that Bolivia had three nationalised Argentines in their World Cup 94 side?, the keeper Trucco, and the defenders Quinteros and Cristaldo.

  • Comment number 37.

    36 - Claudio Morel Rodriguez is pushing it as an Argentine. He was born in Paraguay - his dad was one of the most important members of the paraguay side that won the 1979 copa america - then moved to argentina, where claudio grew up.

  • Comment number 38.

    Comment at 24 & 25:

    If England started hiring foreigners up and naturalising them as a policy, that's the day I stop following the national side.

    It's already sad enough that we have an Italian coach but if by 2022 half the squad is full of naturalised Brazilians for example, then there is just no point. The nails are truly hammered in the coffin for international football and we should just follow club football where, at least, the best mercenaries are well paid for their efforts.

  • Comment number 39.

    Tim there were definitely 4 Argentines on the so called Italian World cup winning squad of 1934 and possibly a fifth who did not play.The 3 you mention who were all on the team of the tournament.Luis Monti who played for Argentina in 1930,Enrique Guaita who only arrived in Italy in 1933 and returned to Argentina in 1935.Raimudo Orsi who played in the 28 Olimpic final in amsterdam v Uruguay.
    The fourth Attilio De Maria played for Argentina in the 1930 World cup as well as Monti and scored the winner for the Italians in the semi final.
    The fifth was Renato Cesarini one of the greatest coaches in history Rivers Maquina, the Juventus of Sivori and Charles amongst others.La Biblia de futbol as he was known is still remembered to this day in Italian futbol as every goal in added time is known as a being scored in la zona Cesarini as he became notorious for scoring late goals for Juventus and Italy.
    The tanos of course were at it again in the last Mundial with Camoranesi.

  • Comment number 40.

    With globalisation, this is only going to increase in frequency.

    I don't see it as a bad thing: the first wave of industrialisation and immigration created Boca and River, it lies behind countless other footballing staples - the big clubs of Merseyside, Glasgow, Milan and elsewhere.

    Why should the next wave be a bad thing? We might see a great Sudanese youngster win the world cup for England, a Haitian lift the US into the world elite, a Croat for Australia. National pride is not racial, not about the geography of birth. People are no longer serfs tied to the same scrap of land they were born on.

  • Comment number 41.

    Ok i admit i cheated a little with another wiki page!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Brazilian-born_footballers_who_have_played_for_another_national_team

    I knew them all except Gonzalez (Chile) and Clementino (Equatorial Guinea!) -

    #31 - phan van santos is a quality name, and you're right about Kuranyi, should probably go with Liedson or Marcelo Martins.

    Luis Oliveira was one of the greatest culprits, he leaves Sao Luis at 19, spends 4 years in Belgium, then 17 in Italy, but of course plays for the Belgian national side!!! How Belgian can he be?

  • Comment number 42.

    I agree with Tim, Messi was without a doubt formed in Argentinia, check this video of Messi winning an international championship in Peru at the youth level with Club Atlético Newell's Old Boys when he was like 10 years old. Messi has also openly said that he is a supporter of Newells over any other team in the world. In this game, he scores, and dominates. He also then proceeds to console one of the players from the other team who broke into tears after losing the game.

    http://www.sport.es/default.asp?idpublicacio_PK=44&idioma=CAS&idnoticia_PK=702985&idseccio_PK=803

  • Comment number 43.

    Interesting... maybe you know the answer to this but is there any truth to the rumor that El Burrito Ortega was born in Bolivia? I've heard that from Argentineans... I don't know if that's due to the common-day racism Bolivians are exposed to in Argentina, and maybe for some reason people think Ortega is Bolivian when he isn't just like the same rumors that still persist that Ringo Starr is Jewish.

  • Comment number 44.

    Lovely stuff as usual Tim.

    What I'm wondering is to what extent is Barrios being embraced in Paraguay as a direct answer to the unfortunate and tragic absence of Salvador Cabanas at the World Cup?

    I'm guessing Paraguay could use an extra in light of Cabanas' injury, so did this help Barrios' acceptance into the national fold?

    And while on that subject - will he make the team ahead of Santa Cruz and Cardozo?

    http://www.just-football.com/

  • Comment number 45.

    Nothing much to add Tim. I keep looking forward to your next article and the information therein rarely disappoints.

    Immigrants playing for national teams is nothing new in sports. From the Freddy Adu's (American-Ghanaian), to Mario Balotelli (Ghanaian-Italian), to Deco or Eduardo (Brazilians turning out for Portugal and Croatia respectively), this is nothing new. World Cup legend, Just Fontaine, a Frenchman born in Morocco and Eusebio, the Portugese legend of Mozambican origin are an integral part of their nations' legends.

    I believe each of these "foreign" players add something missing in the local players, most notably natural ability and technical giftings. Flair might not be a natural part of a local player's abilities, e.g. the stereotypical English play characterized by work ethic, team ethos and a running game, might benefit immensely from a player's cheek (remember Bolton's Jay Jay Okocha or Nwankwo Kanu).

    Looking at it another way, soccer, just like music, is a universal language all on its own. It's a way of communication regardless of ability to understand the words themselves. Adding to that, all players are foreigners, having learned the game by reading the exploits of others, learning under non-native coaches, playing alongside international mates or simply learning playing formations that originated from elsewhere e.g. the 1-3-3-3 defensive playing formation and two of it's variants, the 1-4-4-1 and 1-4-3-2, commonly called catenaccio.

    Always a good read. Till the next one.

  • Comment number 46.

    # 21, Caludrup, I think Argentina would have won in 2006 if their coach had brought on Messi against Germany in the quarter-final. Argentina had the edge, and Messi had been superb in other games. Arg brought on a plank, a defender, as a replacement for a forward and stuck him up front, totally ineffective where Messi would have run rings round the tiring Germans.

    I didn't understand the non-Messi decision at the time, can anyone shed light on it?

    He's even better now, I hope he lights up the WC in SA.

  • Comment number 47.

    Great blog Tim!

    I am finding myself waiting for Mondays... living in BA now and enjoying football at its rootier essence, passion, heart, urine and little pasteurization. The thing is a mess, but the amount of history behind these clubs and the people behind them generation after generation, are staggering.

    I would like to thank Dan 42 for the great video! Unbelievable! That is Rosario's Newell's Old Boys shirt. Back in 1974 I was at Velez Sarsfield's stadium watching a Boca-Argentinos Jrs. league night match and one of the ballboys was a then 12-year old kid nicknamed Pelusa. He came on the field at intermission and did the same as Leo in the video. He held the ball in the air (foot, head, shoulder, knees, whatever) for what seemed an eternity while the public applauded... and the players coming back for the second half just stood by the sidelines admiring the kid. He then mocked free kicks from 25 meters out, placing his fellow Cebollita ballkids in the wall and a goalie on the line. He would point a la Babe Ruth at the spot where he would kick and then proceed to nail it one after another one in every possible corner.

    And thank you Mr. Sam Wanjere for the best entry of them all: the analogy with music is right on. I never stopped to think where Dave Holland, Miles Davis or Marta Argerich were born or raised. All I know is they continue to move me.

    Until next Monday.

  • Comment number 48.

    41. At 00:01am on 13 Apr 2010, Dr Wang wrote:
    Luis Oliviera and many others came to Europe to play ball and qualified as a Belgian in Europe if he either signed before his 18th birthday or played 5yrs in Belgium. Now when he was naturalized he was maybe 35th choice for Brazil and Belgium needed a striker.

    Now you can hardly blame him for wanting to be play his trade at the highest possible level, and his native country would have NEVER (almost certain) called him up. Then what is the point of barring him from playing for his "adopted" country if his country of origin would never call him up because they could field 2 or 3 teams BEFORE even considering to call him up.

    You should start seeing soccer and sports as a job. If you move to a different country and need a work permit for which your employer has to sponsor you and if you change employer the new one has to apply for it all over again. If you can gain some form of citizenship after some time wouldn't you hesitate as it increases your chances on the job market

  • Comment number 49.

    # 48 - I don't blame Oliveira for plying his trade in another nation. I also agree that citizenship can often aid the right to stay and work in that country.

    But footballers get paid a lot of money playing for a club. They also get paid for International football and when they put on that nation's jersey it should be because they love that country and feel pride at representing them.

    Maybe it can increase your value at club level, but equally it could decrease it. Attributes such as honesty, loyalty and integrity may not be so prevalent in football anymore, but they can still useful traits in terms of teamwork.

    Furthermore, without international football a player can prolong his career by avoiding injury.

  • Comment number 50.

    I think most national sides have at least one player who is eligible to play for another country.

    What i don't understand is that, given the number of players eligible to play for paraguay in argentina, why is nobody scouting them at a younger age, and getting them to play for the U18s and U20s? Surely that would stop any of this nonsense about nationalizing players when they become successful, and them waiting for a chance to play for argentina.

    There's a striker playing for boca now, Orlando Gabriel Gaona, but as far as i know, he hasn't represented the country at any level, even though Boca rate him highly and he once scored 4 goals in one game.

  • Comment number 51.

    Tim great blog as usual. Football was born in England, but as it was said many times, it was reinvented in the River Plate shores (what can be called second foundation). The third foundation defentily came by the hand of brazilian football.
    Lionel Messi has an argentinian soul, you can see it in the pitch and outside. He talks, walks and think like an argentinian. Catalan culture is rich but for people born in Argentina is a very close society with their ancestral rites. If you doesn't live that at a very young age and as a part of a heritage o family legacy you would never embrace it. Messi folkes are both from an italian background, so that's another point in favour to assure that Messi can't feel as a catalan. He might love everything related to Barcelona, and Catalunya, but may be, in the years to come, when he has his own family born in that part of the world, he would identify much more with Catalunya (as Cruyff did).
    When it comes to football, anyone can see on youtube the history of Messi, and he plays exactly the same way since he was 5 years old... it's amazing.
    A question? There is any case of foreigners playing for Brazil or Argentina national squad?

  • Comment number 52.

    The only current player is Gonzalo Higuain, Born in Brest, France, could have played for either Argentina or France, though please correct me if I'm wrong.

    On one hand, credit to Argentina and Brazil, but on the other hand, they do have larger populations than their neighbours and more immigration from both richer and poorer nations...

  • Comment number 53.

    Dr Wang you are right, Higuain was given the choice and even was told that he was going to be called up by Domenech for an international friendly against Greece back in 2006. He hesitated for a few months and finally turned the French down. It is a fairly extraordinary coincidence and a reversal of fortunes for Argentina who lost native David Trezeguet to the Bleus back in the 90's: They are both excellent strikers and they both were born in the countries that never saw them wearing their national jerseys.

    Somehow Maradona (and Basile before him) managed to ignore Higuain's Real Madrid accomplishments until the boat was sinking in the 2009 South American WC qualifiers and only called him for the last two matches vs Peru and Uruguay, where Pipita delivered strong performances.

    Hopefully the symmetry with Trezeguet will be complete when Higuain scores Argentina's winning goal in SA's WC final next July, as Trezeguet did for Les Bleus in the Euro of 2000.

  • Comment number 54.

    higuain was born in france because his dad was playing there at the time - he was in argentina after just a few months, and so has no real connection with france.

    I think that one of his problems getting into the argentina set up was that he refused to play in the 2007 World Youth Cup. Diego takes a dim view of that kind of thing.

  • Comment number 55.

    Tim, Your information regarding Higuain is correct. Maradona was a major critic of Pipita's decision, and, as I recall, he told that he didn't deserve to wear the argentinian colors. At that the media in Argentina told that the real problem was that the club that hired him (Real Madrid) didn't allowed Pipita to play with the under 20 squad because it will be a dishonour to a Real Madrid player. Remember that in that time Messi was called to play the Cup America in Venezuela with the first argentinian team.

  • Comment number 56.

    Many Argentinians are also descendants of immigrants from Spain (mainly the basque country and Galicia ).
    What clubs do you know of in argentina were founded by these immigrants Tim ?

    Reality is most Argentinians are of mixed Spanish and Italian ancestry

  • Comment number 57.

    #56 not forgetting Mapuche and other indigenous groups who were there a long time before either the Spanish or Italians!

  • Comment number 58.

    after quickly looking through Argentinian clubs in wiki, it seems one of the "big 5 ", San Lorenzo, has a strong association with Basque immigrants

  • Comment number 59.

    The British presence in Argentina was always very strong and it started earlier than the arrival of Italian and other European immigrants, as they were primarily there (with the French) to develop (and exploit) the agricultural riches of the Pampas. Their presence was particularly strong in railway building and meat packing plants. Private English schools soon followed, with their tradition of a very central role for physical education. Football and rugby soon spread to a rapidly growing immigrant population, reaching beyond the Anglo-Argentines. It is for this reason that football clubs with British roots outnumber clubs with Italian or Spanish roots.

    There are a number of much older clubs that have disappeared following the advent of professional football in Argentina, in 1931. Almost all of these had strong British roots and were amateur, generally tied to schools. Some examples were the Buenos Aires English High School, Saint Andrew's Scots School, Flores Collegiate, Flores English College, Old Caledonians Football Club, Saint John's Football Club, Scotch Club y Buenos Aires Football Club were some of the original names.

    The first organized football match was organized by Thomas Hogg in 1867. The father of the first football association was a Scottish educator, Alexander Watson Hutton and another scotsman named William Waters brought the first official British-made ball. All of this happened in the last 15 years of the 19th century and first few years of the 20th.


    Actual teams that were founded by Spanish immigrants or tied to Anglo-Argentine immigrants, communities or locales would be:

    Primera A: Newell's Old Boys (named after Isaac Newell of Rosario) and Banfield (named after British railway engineer Edward Banfield). River Plate and Racing Club have no British roots that I know of.

    National Primera B: All Boys (just the name, no Anglo influence here)

    Buenos Aires Primera B: Deportivo Espanol - Temperley, Brown de Adrogue(named after Irish Admiral William Brown, founder of the Argentine navy back in 19th century)

    Primera C: F.C. Midland (old English railway company)

    Primera D: Recreativo Espanol - Claypole


  • Comment number 60.

    Hmmm... if its shirts you're on about, Italy's 1934 shirts look like they were ordered by Star Trek costumes department and not collected.

  • Comment number 61.

    Was Ferro Carril Oeste founded by British railway workers, or local Argentinians ?

  • Comment number 62.

    61. Ferro Carril Oeste F.C. was founded by employee's of the railroad company. The first chairman of the executive board was William Beeston and the first manager was David Simson.

    In general, the development of the sports in Argentina came by the hand of english workers (football, rugby, polo, turf, tennis, etc). Also the first and more traditional social clubs were found by english men as well.

  • Comment number 63.

    San Lorenzo was actually a mix, very much reflecting the melting pot of Bs As in the early 1900's. Although there are many descendants of Spaniards in the original neighbourhood of Almagro and later Boedo, the club had Italian founders.

    Firstly it was named after Father Lorenzo Massa of Italian descent, who gave a few guys kicking around in the street, a space to play next to his parish, after one of the pals, Juan Abbondanza (Italian for abundance) was almost ran over by a tramway. The payback was attending mass on Sundays!

    First president: Federico Monti (Italian). Some of the 1914 players' names: Gianella, Perazzo and Monti himself.

    Incidentally, the nickname for Boca Juniors palyers and followers is 'xeneizes' which means Genovese in dialect.

  • Comment number 64.

    Yes Pekster... you are almost right; Ferro was founded by British managers of the railway company 'of the west' but it counted both Brits and locals amongst its couple hundred original members. They used to have a cup played between the two groups from 1912 on.

  • Comment number 65.

    63. San Lorenzo de Almagro is often related to the Basques because a lot of players of that origin played in the sqaud. One of them was a great striker and his name was ISIDRO LANGARA. Another famous basque player was Ángel Zubieta Redondo.

  • Comment number 66.

    57. It's a common mistake to believe that the Mapuches were natives from the Argentina. In fact they were Araucanians, original from the central valley of Chile. They invade the native tribes of Argentina among many others in the 19th century. They also present a fierce fight against Chile army forces, and General Roca in Argentina.

  • Comment number 67.

    To Liam:

    Sorry, I forgot to answer your question...

    Club Atletico Banfield was founded in 1896. The neighbourhood, which grew around the train station (14 km south of Buenos Aires) was heavily settled by British families. The main founders were Daniel Kingsland and George Burton, first president y vicepresident. Kingsland was a meat exporter and Burton an accountant who graduated in Cambridge.
    The club was originally founded to fulfill a social role more than a sporting club. The first inaugural event was a cricket match, played in a field next to the railway tracks.

    Until 1899, cricket dominated and football was a bit of an afterthought. From 1899 on, Alfred John Goode, a football lover took over the club. In 1899 Banfield won the Segunda División of Argentina, by one point in the standings over the English High School of Alexander Watson Hutton.

    In 1900 they won the second division again (there were no promotions then): some of the players were James Doods Watson, Edward "Invincible" Potter, Charles Douglas and president Goode in goal.

    Throughout the 20th century CA Banfield (nicknamed The Drill) went up and down from third to second to first division football. It is now (finally) one of the top teams in Argentina having just won (for the first time ever) the last Apertura tournament, and currently competing gamely in the Libertadores Cup.

    I would say the the Anglo-Argentine community, after so many years is fully integrated into mainstream society. Their contribution to Argentina's prosperity and growth as a nation was and is still crucial but for the most part they were never singled out or attacked during the Malvinas/Falklands war by their fellow citizens. Their descendants are now into their third and fourth generations, intermarried with other Argentines, Anglo or not, and doing great.

  • Comment number 68.

    Nice story, it's always interesting when we looked at the origin.

  • Comment number 69.

    The most recent Argentinian player to play for the Azzurri is of course Mauro Camoranesi. I wrote my thesis on the impact of mass Southern European immigration to Argentina, and it's effect on Argentinian nationalism and national sentiment. As your article portrays, this impact is fascinatingly manifested in the world of football.

  • Comment number 70.

    Hi Tim,

    Though I regularly read your articles, this is the first time I've actually bothered to create a BBC account, largely down to your wonderful insight into not just South American football, but footballing philosophy in general. So, kudos to you for that.

    On the article, I'm not sure I can get around the idea of representing a nation to whom I had very little feeling/cultural attachment. Like #69 talks about Camoranesi, you have to ask yourself: does Camoranesi choose to represent Italy because he feels culturally attached, or is it because his choice of international side aids him in forging success in a (fairly short) career? I wonder, with a lot of these players, whether or not the motives are purely selfish - and, if that be the case, I can totally sympathise with any fans who have a gripe over this. I assume this is how a lot of Paraguyan supporters see said Argentine players coming over to play for their national team.

  • Comment number 71.


    Nice stuff Tim. Thanks.

    International Migration and Minorities is turning out to be a fascinating theme for research, reflection and writing. This bit of worldmaking efforts by migrants in their new and chosen life worlds is drawing a lot of attention nowadays.

    In the good old days we used to witness this "derby factor" in every major Indian city where our two big Indian football clubs faced each other in the All India Football Tournaments. Migrants to Indian cities from Bengal were firmly behind their respective football clubs in those cities far away from Kolkata. The two Indian footballing giants have their own history of origin and development.

    Football tournaments in Gangtok, Guwahati, Delhi, Nagpur, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad used to witness the derby factor among the rival fans when the Kolkata giants faced each other in those football grounds filled by the Bengali diaspora.


    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 72.

    what are the chances lucho gonzalez getting into the argentina squad? he has really stepped up at marsielle and is doing very well. he is a fast hard working and creative central mid. could be a great player to have on reserve.

  • Comment number 73.

    Congratulations on your blog, Tim! You could comment on what happens with Santos in Brazil.

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  • Comment number 77.

    There was a Brazilian in the squad as well, 'Filo' Guarisi and four years later Italy successfully defended their title, this time with a Uruguayan, Michele Andreolo, in their midfield

    my uncle said he knows this brazilian and he saw him smoknig an electronic cigarette or an electric cigarette

    plretty cool stuff!

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    Great blog Tim, I like Messi and I think he picked up Catalan while he's playing in Barcelona. He's definitely from Argentina...

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