Why are football styles so different? Why are some fluid and expressive, while others rigid and formal? The answer lies in the emergence of football in the 20th Century in Latin America, where each countries style of play reflected the countries identity and culture.
This sport was introduced into Argentina at the turn of the century by the British workers living in Buenos Aires. It started out as an elite sport in elite clubs which shunned the Argentinians and prevented them from playing. The British style of play at the time mirrored the British style of life: rigid, calculated and professional. With its increasing popularity among the British elite in Buenos Aires, the Argentinean people also started to gain an interest in the sport and began to mirror what they saw on the field among themselves. The new breed Argentinean style was completely different to the rigid English model; it encouraged players to show off their individual skill, pace and flare – thus the Criollo style of play was born. The Criollo football focused on its creativity and dribbling, a stark contrast to the rigid and robotic style played by the British. This presented the Argentinians with a way of showcasing their creative and eccentric culture through football and led them to build a new national identity around football. For many years the British and Criollo players played in separate leagues demonstrating the segregation of culture that existed at the beginning of the 20th Century. Argentina’s new national identity through football showed their independence from both the British and from the European style of life.
As the game developed in Argentina the Criollo teams began to defeat the British at their own sport. Thus the Argentinean culture, which was focused so strongly around football, began to overcome British identity that existed throughout the country. Hence, football was both enjoyed as a sport and a competition for Argentina, but was also instrumental in paving way for their new national identity which found its roots in their fast, flamboyant and spectacular style of play.