Soccer fans worldwide are watching as the World Cup tournament unfolds this month in South Africa. As millions of spectators root for their teams at watch parties and sports bars throughout the nation, it seems as though America has embraced a newfound fascination with the game. Although soccer’s popularity is growing and continues to grow in the United States, it has and always will be a cultural touchstone in Latin America.
In “Temples of the Earthbound Gods,” (University of Texas Press, 2008) Christopher Gaffney (Geography and the Environment, ‘05) reflects on how soccer became an integral part of national identity, particularly in Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires.
Through the lens of iconic stadiums, Gaffney examines various aspects of urban culture that played out in spectator sports events – from religion to violence to expressions of sexuality and masculinity. Tracing the history and evolution of “temples” throughout the world, he provides illuminating insights into how sports fans have embraced such rituals as face painting, barbecue tailgate parties, lucky socks – even heckling.
Gaffney is a journalist and local radio commentator. He has played soccer on four continents, winning the 1997 Taiwanese Footballer of the Year Award. He is currently a visiting professor in the School of Architecture and Urbanism at the Universidade Federal Fluminense in Brazil. Visit his blog to see his coverage of the World Cup.
What’s your favorite sports ritual? Share your thoughts and post a comment.