Immigrant pride and working-class thrift
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.
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'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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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?
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.
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.