Montevideo, Uruguay and soccer

Montevideo, the Uruguayan capital, has an historical and inseparable relationship with soccer. It hosted the first World Cup and, 91 years later, it will host the CONMEBOL Libertadores tournament’s final. History is in the air.

CONMEBOL Libertadores

William Machado did not realize what he’d be up to. Being a midfielder with Villa Española does not necessarily bring fame. He knew he would play at the Montevideo Wanderers Stadium because the Obdulio Varela Stadium, his home arena, lacked enough stands to welcome Peñarol. Likely, no one would have thought a match between the teams at the top and bottom of the league scoreboard would create such a buzz. Facundo Torres, the promising 21-year-old soccer juggling forward, dodged him. Machado lunged forward and gave him a criminal kick. The classic match was scheduled for the following weekend. Torres’s injury created doubts whether he would make it to the upcoming game. On the next day, the rumor mill went into overdrive. At the supermarket line or gossiping at the beach, the threat loomed over the city: "You will end like Torres." In Montevideo, soccer fills every nook and cranny.


Yamandú Cardozo, leader of Agarrate Catalina, the most emblematic murga Uruguayan carnival street band of the 21st century, said without hesitation: "I would trade my whole life, including my affections, for being Nacional's goalkeeper.” The No Te Va Gustar band released its new album during a soccer game. Writer Eduardo Galeano announced he would not take any calls during the soccer season, and he would not pick up at all during  the World Cup. Soccer player Santiago López reflects on why soccer is so popular in these parts: “It is a curse Uruguay won the 1950 World Cup at the Maracanã. Because a small country reached so high, we all feel we have to reenact that epic moment."




Soccer is in every corner of the city. At the beach in Pocitos, where the Fénix beach soccer team trains at sunset. In the public courts of the boulevard, when as late as midnight referees blow a loud whistle announcing a match has just started. In public parks, that sit stadiums like the Franzini arena. In Parque Valle, site of the Centenario Stadium, Miramar Misiones playing field and Palermo. Three million people live here, and 300 000 play soccer every weekend. Nowhere else in the world do 10% of the population engage in the same activity every weekend.


Even the last three Uruguayan presidents have talked about the game. Modern South American states took their modern shape last century, in the 30s. But there are other key dates that explain why soccer matters so much. Uruguay amazed the world by winning gold in the 1924 Paris Olympic Games. They did it again in the 1930 World Cup, and rose as the first world champions. They wrote history in 1950. In 1916, when the first Copa América was played - at that time called the South American Championship - they also took first place. Admittedly, the Eastern Bank nation initiated the era of this continent’s soccer victories.


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