By Tara Schoenborn
Ecuador had a historic 2-0 soccer win over Argentina on Oct. 8 in the first-round qualifier for the 2018 World Cup. This win marks the first time Ecuador defeated Argentina on its home turf, reports the Cuenca High Life. Ecuador has only qualified for the World Cup on three occasions, whereas Argentina has the reputation of a soccer champion, according to The Guardian. The significance of the win goes beyond the game and represents broader political and cultural implications in South America.
Soccer or “fútbol” is closely intertwined with everyday life in South America, states Soccer Politics, and greatly influences society. Soccer arrived just as the countries were establishing new constitutions, identifying rights and defining their cultures, as reported on the Kojo Nnamdi Radio Show. Soccer became something everyone could rally around, despite differences in background, and each country developed a distinct style.
Coverage of the Oct. 8 game on the United States’ FOX Sports and Malaysia’s Malay Mail Online shows that the association of South America with soccer moves beyond the continent. In the United States, soccer is often viewed as a sport played by little boys and girls in grade school, but according to Time Magazine, soccer is an identity worth fighting for in South America. As a result, and because many South American nations are still developing powers, most of the world sees South America through a soccer lens and a stereotype.
For example, Pitbull created a theme song for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil that capitalized on many Brazilian stereotypes, such as samba, beautiful women, and, of course, soccer. When Brazil lost 1-7 to Germany, outlets like USA Today framed it as a disgrace. The Washington Post published an article that put the loss in the context of a disagreement between Brazil and Israel, and Jornal Nacional TV reported the Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor as saying, “This is not football. In football, when a game ends in a draw, you think it is proportional, but when it finishes 7-1 it’s disproportionate. Sorry to say, but not so in real life and under international law.” Palmor used the loss to embarrass Brazil and threaten its identity and power, which has strong implications for policy.
Historically, the champions of South American soccer are Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, according to World Soccer Talk. Interestingly enough, these are also the nations with the most economic and political promise. Ecuador, on the other hand, has yet to win a game in Copa América, the regional tournament among Latin and South American nations, according to the Confederación Sudamericana de Fútbol. This implies that Ecuador’s Oct. 8 defeat of Argentina has a larger meaning within the region. Ecuador defeating Argentina at home symbolizes the possibility that Ecuador can become a regional player and also a rising international power.
Under President Correa’s tenure, Ecuador has grown substantially, both politically and economically, but it has also suffered assaults to human rights, reports an article in the Washington Post. Recently, protests and social unrest have been frequent due to an economic downturn and Correa’s feud with the media, the Miami Herald reports. It will be interesting to see how Correa uses the win over Argentina to leverage his power at home by rallying the public around the team, fostering nationalism to flex his muscles in the region and attempting to show the rest of the world that there is more to Ecuador than the stereotype of soccer.
Photograph by Rodrigo Soldon II retrieved from Flickr.