¡Golazo!: A History of Latin American Football by Andreas Campomar (Quercus, 2014)

Golazo

By Dan Williamson

Twitter: @winkveron

It is often said that football is “only a game”. However, if one region contradicts this, it has to be Latin America. ¡Golazo! attempts to cover the entire history of the region, from  Aztec ball-playing rituals of the Fifteenth Century to the modern-day. It charts the introduction of the beautiful game to Latin America by British immigrants in the Nineteeth Century and all of the key moments in between.

Latin American football isn’t all about buck-toothed smiling Brazilian’s, and fancy ball skills: it’s a much richer tapestry and includes some very dark moments indeed. The 1978 World Cup, hosted by Argentina, was an attempt by their murderous government to improve their image to the rest of the world. To say it wasn’t without its controversies would be an understatement. The “football war” erupted between El Salvador and Honduras in 1969 after a World Cup qualifier between the two nations. Tensions were already high, but the match was a catalyst that sparked a brief but deadly war that cost in the region of 3,000 lives. And then there is the unlucky Andres Escobar, the Colombian defender murdered shortly after his own goal dumped his nation out of the 1994 World Cup in the USA. Sometimes football is more than a game.

When I saw this book on sale for just £4 I had to buy it, being a lifelong football fan and a Latin American Studies graduate. The credentials of the author, Andreas Campomar, are impressive: the publishing director is the great-grand-nephew of Dr Enrique Bueno, the man credited with convincing Jules Rimet to stage the first World Cup in Uruguay in 1930. Dr Berro later became the Vice-president of FIFA.

The book doesn’t miss a trick and all of the key incidents, players and teams are mentioned, along with other fascinating obscure stories. It’s main detraction is that it felt like the author was trying to squeeze too much into the book. After all, it’s far too complex to tell the history of a continent’s football in little over four-hundred pages. Perhaps the author would have been better concentrating on the footballing history of one country, or a particular era. The punctuation and grammar were poor at times and the translation was a little stiff, which often detracted from the content. Saying all that, it was a solid effort, but I fear will only be picked up by people with a real interest in the region, rather than the average football fan.

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