Football inArgentinais the most popular sport, the one with the most players (2,658,811 total, 331,811 of which are registered and 2,327,000 unregistered; with 3,377 clubs and 37,161 officials, all according to FIFA) and is the most popular recreational sport, played from childhood into old age. The percentage of Argentines that declare allegiance to an Argentine football club is about 90%.
Football was introduced to Argentina in the latter half of the 19th century by the British immigrants in Buenos Aires. The first Argentine league was contested in 1891, making it the third oldest league (after Great Britain and the Netherlands). The Argentine Football Association (AFA) was formed in 1893 and is the eighth oldest in the world.
The Argentine national team is one of the eight to have won the football World Cup, having done so in 1978 and 1986, and also being runner-up in 1930 and 1990. They have also won the top continental tournament, the Copa América, on fourteen occasions, and the FIFA Confederations Cup in 1992. The nation's Olympic representative has won two Gold Medals (in 2004 and 2008), while the under-20 team has won a record six U-20 World Cups. At club level, Argentine teams have won the most Intercontinental Cups (9) and the most Copa Libertadores (22).
Women's football has a national league since 1991, the Campeonato de Fútbol Feminino. In turn, the female national representative qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 2007 and won their first Campeonato Sudamericano Femenino (top continental competition) in 2006.
In futsal, Argentina were FIFUSA/AMF Futsal World Cup champions in 1994. They also compete in the FIFA code of futsal, where they finished third in the 2004 FIFA Futsal World Cup. The team also won the FIFA Futsal Copa América in 2003. Moreover, Argentina was world champion in futsal for the visually impaired in 1998.
Argentina also compete in the beach football World Cup, where their best finish was third in 2001.
The Galileo Galilei planetarium now stands on the site of the first recorded football match inArgentina
Two English immigrants Thomas and James Hogg organised a meeting on May 9, 1868 in Buenos Aires where the Buenos Aires Football Club was founded. The club was given permission by Buenos Aires Cricket Club to make use of the cricket field which was located in Parque Tres de Febrero in Palermo on the site now occupied by the Galileo Galilei planetarium. The first recorded football match in Argentina took place on this pitch on 20 June 1867. The game was played between two teams of British merchants, the White Caps and the Red Caps.
First team: Thomas Hogg, James Hogg, William Forrester, T.B. Smith, J.W. Bond, E.S. Smith, J. Rabsbottom and N.H. Smith.
Second team: William Heald, T.R. Best, U. Smith, H.J. Barge, H. Willmont, R.M. Ramsay, J. Simpson and W. Boschetti.
The so-called "father of Argentine football" was a Glaswegian schoolteacher, Alexander Watson Hutton, who first taught football at St Andrew's School in Buenos Aires in the early 1880s. On 4 February 1884 he founded the Buenos Aires English High School where he continued to instruct the pupils in the game. . In 1891 Hutton established the Association Argentine Football League , the first football league outside of the British Isles . Five clubs competed but only one season was ever played.
In this early period a number of football clubs were set up by the employees of the various British-owned railway companies in Argentina, a number of these teams have survived to the present including Ferro Carril Oeste, Club Ferrocarril Midland, Rosario Central and Talleres de Córdoba.
1910 Alumni team, one of the most important in the early years of football in Argentina.
Amateur Era in Argentine football
A new league, the The Argentine Association Football League was formed February 21, 1893 which eventually became the Argentine Football Association. In these early days of football in Argentina nearly all of the players and officials were expatriate Britons or of British extraction and the oldest football clubs in Argentina like Rosario Central, Newell's Old Boys and Quilmes Athletic Club were all founded by British expatriates.
The most successful and admired team of this early period was Alumni founded by graduates and students of Watson Hutton's English High School. Like all of the early clubs it was mainly made up of British players.
Towards the end of the 19th Century the game became increasingly popular amongst other European immigrants especially the Italians.
Most of the early clubs had a policy of excluding the local creole population. The backlash against this policy at Quilmes Athletic Club resulted in the formation of Argentino de Quilmes in 1899, the first of many Argentine clubs for Argentine players. The name Argentino or Argentinos has remained popular in Argentine football. The most famous team with the name is Argentinos Juniors who won the Copa Libertadores in 1985.
The early years of the 20th Century saw a huge number of new clubs formed, by 1907 there were over 300 teams in Argentina. Most of the major clubs were created around this period; they played in the national amateur tournament or in local championships. By this time matches had a considerable attendance and as the popularity of the game increased the British influence on the game waned. In 1911 Alumni folded and by 1912 the Association was renamed in Spanish as the Asociación Argentina de Football, although the tradition of giving the clubs English names continued for many years.
During the early 20th Century many new football leagues were started in cities across Argentina as the popularity of the game spread out from Greater Buenos Aires, these include Rosario (1905), Córdoba (1912), Santa Fe (1913), Tucumán (1919) San Luis (1920) and Salta (1921).
The first official match played by the Argentina national team took place on May 16, 1901 against Uruguay resulted in a 3-2 win for Argentina.This game marked the beginning of the Argentina and Uruguay football rivalry.
The first trophy won by Argentina was the Copa Lipton in 1905. They won their first tournament in 1910 (Copa Centenario de la Revolución de Mayo) which was contested between Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Chile.
In 1916 Argentina competed in the first Copa América which was won by Uruguay, they won the tournament for the first time in 1921 and have gone on to win it a total of 14 times, which is a record they share with Uruguay.
In 1928 Argentina competed at the 1928 Olympics where they finished runners up to Uruguay. Two years later they competed in the first FIFA World Cup again finishing runners up to Uruguay.
Following two seasons of disrupted play due to mass cancellation and suspension of matches and the mid-season withdrawal of teams in the 1929 and 1930, 18 teams decided to form a breakaway professional league for the 1931 season. The amateur league carried on in parallel until it folded in 1934 with many of the teams joining the new professional second division The creation of the professional league helped curb the exodus of Argentine talent to high paying European football clubs. The 1934 FIFA World Cup Italian national team championship side featured Oriundo in the squad composed of Argentine born players such as Raimundo Orsi, Enrique Guaita, and Luis Monti who also played for Argentina in the 1930 FIFA World Cup.
In 1964 Independiente became the first Argentine club to win the Copa Libertadores, Argentine clubs have won the competition a total of 22 times, Brazil clubs have the second most with 13.
In 1967 Racing Club became the first Argentine team to win the Intercontinental Cup. Argentine clubs have won the tournament a record nine times.
In 1978 Argentina hosted the FIFA World Cup, they beat Holland 3-1 After extra time to win their first World Cup. They won their second World Cup 1986.
In 1979 a young Diego Maradona was part of the Argentina under-20 team that won the FIFA Under-20 World Cup. Argentina have gone on to win a record six U-20 World Cups.
In 2004 the Argentina Olympic football team won Gold at the Athens Olympic games, they defended their title in 2008 to become the first team to defend the Olympic football title since Hungary in 1968.
Argentine football league system
Around 400 registered football clubs play in the Argentine Football Association league system which is divided into a pyramid of eight leagues, divided at the third tier between the Greater Buenos Aires conurbation and the rest of the country (Interior). Below this level there are a further 249 regional leagues which are affiliated with AFA and compete for the right to enter the league system at the lowest tier.
The Primera División is the highest level of club football in Argentina. it is divided into the Apertura and Clausura championships consisting of two leagues of 19 games each per season. At the end of each season the most successful teams qualify to play in the Copa Libertadores and the Copa Sudamericana and the least successful are relegated to the second tier; Primera B Nacional which is the only other league which is organised at national level.
Below the Primera B Nacional the league system is divided, with a further three divisions for the Buenos Aires metropolitan Area and three regionalised tournaments covering the rest of the country.
Since the professionalisation of the Primera División in 1931 a total of 15 teams have been champions of Argentina, River Plate have the most championships with 33. Between 1931 and 1967 the only winners of the Primera División Argentina were the so called "big five" (Boca Juniors, Independiente, Racing, River Plate and San Lorenzo). This dominance was finally broken in 1967 by Estudiantes de La Plata, since then nine of other teams have won the championship. The only teams outside the Greater Buenos Aires connurbation to have won the championship are Rosario Central and Newell's Old Boys of Rosario and Estudiantes from La Plata.
Argentine Primera champions
Last updated July 29, 2010
River Plate 33
Boca Juniors 23
San Lorenzo de Almagro 10
Vélez Sársfield 7
Newell's Old Boys 5
Rosario Central 4
Estudiantes de La Plata 4
Argentinos Juniors 3
Ferro Carril Oeste 2
Chacarita Juniors 1
Club Atlético Banfield 1
The most successful Argentine club on the international stage is Boca Juniors. They have won a total of 18 officially recognised international tournaments, a world record they share with A.C. Milan of Italy. Three of their wins are the Intercontinental Cup titles of 1977, 2000 and 2003 which is a record they share with a number of other teams.
Independiente have won the most important continental title on the most occasions, their seven Copa Libertadores titles is a record, as is their feat of winning the title on four consecutive occasions. (1972-1975) These achievements earned them the nickname of "Rey de copas" (King of cups).
A number of other Argentine clubs have won the Copa Libertadores, including Estudiantes de La Plata who won it three consecutive times (1968, 1969 & 1970), River Plate (1986 & 1996), Racing Club (1967), Argentinos Juniors (1985) and Vélez Sársfield (1994).
Two Argentine teams have won international titles without ever having won the Argentine Primera, Talleres de Córdoba won the Copa CONMEBOL in 1999 and Arsenal de Sarandí won the Copa Sudamericana in 2007.
Football rivalries in Argentina
There are many local rivalries in Argentine football. The most important is the Superclásico which is contested between Argentina's two most popular and successful teams, Buenos Aires rivals River Plate and Boca Juniors. The English newspaper The Observer put the Superclásico at the top of their list of 50 sporting things you must do before you die.
The second most important rivalry in Argentine football is the Avellaneda derby which is contested between Independiente and Racing. Other important derbies include the Huracán - San Lorenzo de Almagro derby , the Rosario derby, the Córdoba derby and the La Plata derby.
Football plays an important part in the life of many Argentines. Even those supporters who usually do not attend the matches watch them on television and comment on them the next day with friends and co-workers. When the Argentina national football team plays (especially during world cup matches), streets tend to look completely deserted as everyone is watching the match. After the victories in 1978 FIFA World Cup and 1986 FIFA World Cup, streets were flooded with people celebrating the championship, making it impossible not to become part of the celebration.
It was in 1986 when the figure of Diego Maradona exploded, becoming an icon not only of Argentine football but of football itself. In Argentina, Maradona became something resemblant of a god (see Maradonian Church), admired by fans of every club (even River Plate).
Many Argentine fans travel to see their teams in away matches. Hinchas (fans) create an emotional ambiance in many stadiums, singing and cheering loudly all game long; barra bravas (Argentine Hooligans) also create occasional problems, usually in riots after the match. Probably one of the most exciting matches in the world is the Boca-River Derby, where the colourful fans seem to become more important than the match itself.