99 Years, La Roja & Héroes Patrios

Since winning on home terrain, the title cup of Copa America  in 2015, the Chilean national soccer team will be forever revered as true national heroes (héroes patrios) …. since the Copa América, from it’s inception 99 years ago, had never been attained by our national Chilean soccer team – La Selección Chilena, “La Roja”. Especially, since last year’s 2015 Copa America,  it’s 44th edition was held in Chile.

Whether they win or lose – in all Latin America, soccer players, futbolistas,  are considered héroes patrios – a national, type of patriotic hero.  Basically due to the genuine admiration athletes inspire in all spectators on an individual level, in the form of an individual identification,  and emphasized in Latin American by the added dimension of national identity.  As heroes, though they never have a physical death,  they are heroes  as they surrender their hearts and soul on the field.  Many times, when they lose a game,  these players  die in heart and spirit, only to later “resurrect” again in the following match. These national heroes serve and represent their respective countries on the soccer fields. There is a quote by Eduardo Galeano (1940-2015), Uruguayan writer, journalist, novelist and  “global soccer’s preeminent man of letters” that gives a good summary of what soccer is to many:  “In life, a man can change wives, political parties or religion but he cannot change his favorite soccer team”.  This can quickly be accommodated to fit everyone as well:  In life, a person can change partners, political parties or religion but a person cannot change their favorite soccer team (or player!).

From a Chilean TV series SQP (abreviatura de Sálvese quien pueda –  short for Every Man for Himself) a shows in which a diverse panel of journalists, models, television entertainers, actors or dancers, are interviewed as they review news events of interest and its show’s conductor is Cristian Sánchez.  It is broadcast Monday through Friday at 12:00 by Chilevisión.
This above show clip is titled, Why is it so moving to sing our national anthem? Compilation summary of Chilean singer, Daniela Castillo’s answer:  “When we sing our national anthem – we are telliing the world, what Chile represents to us… Ese drama hace que la gente se emocione que la sienta mucho mas en el corazon al cantar la cancion nacional es un resume de todo lo que hemos pasado – lo bueno, lo malo. Motivo de unión como país y por esa“. That drama (of telling) makes people get moved that much more in the heart when singing the national song… it is a summary of everything we’ve been through – the good, the bad. Binding unifying motive as a country and for her, our nation. 
The replies of Chilean singer, Alvaro Veliz “when out of the country and you sing our national anthem – you are talking about what is that you see in our country.everyday – what you live in Chile.  La letra habla muy bien de lo que es nuestro pais. habla de nuestra cordillera, nuestra sangre, nuestra lucha. Tiene partes muy epicas…y por esas partes epicas el pecho se te va inflando…The lyrics speaks highly of what is our country. It speaks of our mountains, our blood, our struggle. It has very epic parties … and it is those epic parts that swells our bosoms.
The show continues on to a psychologist – in Spanish: “Para el psicólogo Sergio Schilling el himno [nacional] representa la union, ademas con el exito desempeño de nuestra roja el cantar se transforma en un orgullo de decir a los cuartos vientos que los chilenos si pueden triunfar dejando atras el estigma de perdedores del deporte del balon pie.” For the psychologist Sergio Schilling [the national] anthem represent the union,  aside with the successful performance of our Roja –  the singing becomes a proud way to declaring to the four winds that Chileans can score thereby leaving behind the stigma of being a loser in soccer. Sergio Schilling then adds – in Spanish: “Esto himnos en generalmente todos estos, los sonidos los llevan a situaciones más tribales. Entonces por ejemplo, cuando tocas un himnos aparecen dos cosas en esas personas (1) un sentido de pertenecer, somos algo más grande y otro  (2) un sentido de seguridad que te hace esa pertenencia. Entonces cada vez las personas tocan el himno nacional sienten que son parte de una gran familia. Ellos en ese momento sienten de que en alguna forma todas esas personas lo apoyan. Entonces en alguna manera están catalizando no tan solamente a ellos mismos sino a todo el grupo, a todo el país. Por ejemplo pueden superar a un estigma social que los chilenos siempre tienen mala suerte y pierden.” English Fundi2 translation: These hymns generally, all these sounds lead one to more tribal situations. So for example, when you play an hymns two things appear in those people (1) a sense of belonging, we are somewhat larger and also (2) a sense of security that makes you feel that belonging. So every time people play the national anthem they feel they are part of one big family. They then feel that in some way all those people support it. So in some way they are not only catalyzing themselves but the whole group, the whole country. For example they can overcome social stigma that Chileans always have bad luck and lose.


From the movie trailer of the Chilean documentary titled ” Ojos Rojos” there is a quote that sets the tone of soccer’s place in Latin American nationalism. It is said by Eduardo Galeano, in Montevideo, Uruguay – November 2007:  “Nosotros somos futboleros. Cada país ha desarrollado su forma de fútbol: ‘Dime como juegas y te diré quien eres’. Tenemos diferentes maneras de jugar y esas diferentes maneras se expresan de alguna manera una identidad nacional. Son un rasgo de cultura. Fútbol es una parte muy importante de la cultura en estos países.”  ENGLISH Fundi2 translation: “We are football fans.  Each country has developed its form of football, ‘Tell me how you play and I’ll tell you who you are’. We have different ways to play and these are expressed differently somehow a national identity. They are a feature of culture. Football is a very important part of the culture in these countries.” Eduardo Galeano further explains why he feels fútbol is culture in another documentary, The History of Football – The Beautiful Game (click here for English version with subtitle option, or here for the all-Spanish version):  “There is a [silly automatic] tendency to confuse “culture” with the production of books, (which is my trade) or with the theater, or works of art that hang in museums. They are part of culture, but above all culture is a system of symbols that people develop to communicate and to identify themselves,  and  fútbol forms part of this system of symbols. I always been amazed that when a history of the 20th century is written, it does not mention fútbol.  Football is rarely cited in the history of 20th century,  football is a fundamental protagonist. {IF you find interest in watching the entire documentary from it’s commencement, The History of Football – The Beautiful Game: for English click here, the documentary traces the origins of ball oriented games, it’s violent side and possible football origins to Mesoamerica and China, the Romans before coming to England……  y SI usted encuentra interés en ver todo el documental, Historia del Fútbol,  desde su inicio – para la versión en español, haga clic aqui, el documental reseñan los orígenes de los juegos de pelota orientado, su lado violento, y los posibles orígenes de fútbol a mesoamérica y china, los romanos.antes de llegar a Inglaterra.


Quoting directly from a book introduction, written by  Héctor Fernández L’Hoeste, Robert McKee Irwin, and Juan Poblete of their recently publish work titled, ‘Sports and Nationalism in Latin|O America”: “Sports and nationalism are two forms of imagining and actively constructing the connections that justify and explain our belonging to a community. In fact, sports could be said to be one of the key modern terrains for habitualization of nationalism, for they are practiced, lived experience as oppose to nationalism’s ideologically explicit inculcations in more formal settings such as the school system. Indeed, there are few aspects of everyday life that more passionately invoke patriotic sentiments than international sports competitions such as the World Cup or the Olympic Games”. Another heavily noteworthy quote is from pages 12-13 of this above referenced introduction. Which states at length and makes a very solid statement:  “More than 30 years ago, in his classic book Imagined Communities, Benedict Anderson posted the crucial role the reading of newspapers and novels, as form of imagining the social collective, had in the emergence of modern nationalisms. Since then, both the concept of the social imaginary and the attribution of written literature and its reading of a key function in task of constructing – in the context of everyday life and within the subjectivities of the citizens- that form of belonging and mooring we call nationality, have had an important critical trajectory and a clear impact on the study of culture in Latin America and elsewhere…..The claim that these two forms of print culture in Anderson is that they made possible what could be expressed as the emergence of the nation as a categorical form for the imagination of the social (as both a link and a space) and for its practice in everyday life. This meant an expansion of the space of politics now based on the circulation of ideas and narratives, images and behaviors that allowed the active imagination of  the common frame of reference in a cultural imaginary whose form of legitimation and meaning were self-generating…. But there were surely other ceremonies of co-presence in which this collective imagination of the national took place. Explaining the history of nationalism, Ernst Gellner has placed emphasis  on those practices promoted by state agents (school systems, efficient bureaucracy, and communication systems) and the cultural literary needs of an expanding industrial capitalism.  They respond as daily practices to a much more intentional design reflected in cultural and social policies. Likewise, as Stuart Hall has argued, mass communication media, more more than literature, have assumed an even greater role in “providing the images, representations and ideas around which the social totality ca be coherently grasped as a “whole”. In Latin America, in particular, where substantial sectors of the population until relatively recently received little schooling and read little, if at all, the rise of the culture industries were key in consolidating national cultures that until several decades into the 20th century had effectively excluded large swaths of its citizens (Monsivas). The practice of sports within a country and the consumption of many national citizens of these sports as a spectacle are two modern forms of active imagination of the nation both in physical co-presence and as mass-mediated spectacles. They combine the active imagination in the practice of daily-life emphasis of Anderson’s theory of nationalism within print-capitalism with Gellner’s stress on the modern nation-state/industrial capitalism nexus and the need for a homogenous and shared national culture and language as basic conditions for production and consumption. They occur at the point at which structure and agency, the macro-social and the micro-social meet.”


On the topic of national hero, Joshua Nadel Assistant Professor of History, North Carolina Central University; author, “Fútbol!: Why Soccer Matters in Latin America” traces the beginnings of fútbol [as we know it] to the early 1840’s to the upper class boarding schools in England. In an college radio interview by Mr. Kojo Nnamdif from WAMU 88.5, Nadal begins his trace of these beginnings: ” The start of the sport, there are sort of different rules of different sports being developed at the same time. In England in the mid 19th century, there was sort of a movement called muscular Christianity which was that, you know, you had to be strong body, strong mind, essentially, would be the modern way to say that. [Fundi2 would add, a hero of sorts]. Shortly thereafter, really within that decade, the sport arrives in Latin America in the bags of British financiers or British engineers, also Anglo-Argentine youth who were coming back home from boarding schools in England. And it catches on really with the elite of Latin America and these expatriate British who are there and developing the economies of Latin America at the time.” Nadal also includes: “in the late 19th century, the Latin American — many countries of Latin America really experienced what you could call sort of an extreme Europhilia. They aspired to become European in many ways so you actually had — this was, in part, due to ideological reasons.The sons and daughters of Latin American elites would play with their expatriate friends and it sort of quickly, actually, becomes a more popularized sport because people watch, right? The poor youth would watch people over the fence of the athletic club and say, we could probably do that, too. And so the sport actually spreads very quickly. It diffuses downwards very quickly. [Combined with] this Europhilia in the late 19th century, by the early 20th century, there starts to — you start to develop sort of nationalistic trends in Latin America.”


Currently, sports and nationalism can be viewed firsthand in the Copa América Centenario (June 3-26, 2016) The Copa América, since 2007 has been held every four years, the tournament normally features the 10 South American teams and two guest teams. But this year, 2016 is a special commemorative one, since this special 100th (centennial) anniversary of the inaugural tournament of 1916.  Additionally, this 45th edition, is held for the first time, outside of South America – and in the US. In the following paragraphs, Fundi2 will be going back in it’s history to interesting facts and facts related to Chile.

There are a few interesting facts about the first South American championship of 1916. First of all, this championship was held in order to commemorate the first 100 years of independence of Argentina. The very first time South American teams came together to compete, was in 1910 (the actual centennials of the Argentina and Chile) when only three nations competed (Argentina, Chile and Uruguay).  It is once again, six years later in 1916, (and it is this date that is considered the official take off date of the Copa América), when only four teams played: Argentina, Brasil, Chile and Uruguay. From then forward the championship was held at uneven intervals. A last fact related to the 1916 championship is offbeat, but worth noting for it’s historical social connotation. It was found in a Spanish TV series called “Futbolerías” (once again) Eduardo Galeano recounts in Spanish,  stories related to soccer.  This is an “historia del color de la piel“, a story about a skin color as told by Eduardo Galeano: “En el año 1916 see disputo el primer campeonato sudamericano y Uruguay goleó a Chile. Al día siguiente de ese partido la delegación chileno formalmente protestó porque la Uruguay había alineado a dos jugadores africanos. Africanos quiere decir negros, probablemente nietos de esclavos uruguayos nacido en uruguay pero negros. Y era muy raro en esos años ver un negro en una cancha de fútbol y mucho más raro verlo vistiendo la camisita de una selección nacional.  Europa nunca había visto un negro hasta en 1924 en la Olimpiada, quedó Francia deslumbrada por José Leandro Andrade un negro uruguayo prodigioso – capaz de recorrer media cancha con la pelota dormida en la cabeza, eludiendo rivales que caían a su paso. Andrade demostró qué era el fútbol latinoamericano – era hijo de un imigrante briticano pero muy diferente a su papa . . . . ” ENGLISH Fundi2 translation: In 1916 the first South American championship and Uruguay beat Chile.  On the following day, the Chilean delegation formally protested that Uruguay had lined up the two African players. African meaning [a] black [person], probably grandsons of slaves born in Uruguay, Uruguayans but black. And it was very rare in those years see a black [person] in a soccer field and more rare to see one wearing a national team shirt. Europe had never seen a black until 1924 at the Olympics, France was dazzled by Jose Leandro Andrade, a prodigious black Uruguayan – capable of traveling midfield with the ball asleep on his head, avoiding rivals as they fell in his path. Andrade showed what was the Latin American football – he was the son of a British immigrant but very different from his father . . . This Canal Encuentro TV series is part of a larger series called “La vida según Galeano“, Life according to Galeano.


Writing for the BBC, Argentine journalist, Luciano Wernicke, listed as one of the five most unusual moments in the history of the Copa América – a happening related to Chilean soccer team of 1919. It appears listed as moment #2 (La selección que tardó 40 días para volver de la Copa América) “The team that took 40 days to return from a Copa America”. Here is an ENGLISH Fundi2 translation of this referenced note: “After the first tournament in Buenos Aires and the second the following year, in Montevideo – both won by Uruguay, it was Rio de Janeiro’s turn to host. In 1918, a flu epidemic  delayed the sports encounter, which eventually was played in 1919. Having Brazil as headquarters was a particularly great challenge for the Chileans, who came from furthest away. [Upon their return] in 1919, the Chilean team had to cross the Andes by mule to get back from the tournament. [First on their way there] they had to travel by train to Buenos Aires, Argentina and from here took a boat with the blue and white team to the Brazilian city. But the problem resulted when they came back from the tournament (which won for the first time Brazil). A snowstorm closed the crossing through the Andes, leaving the Chilean players stranded in Mendoza,  Argentina, on the border of their country. Without resources to stay there- and since the soccer players had funded the trip out of their own pockets they decided to make the crossing back on mule. This took two weeks. Eventually they arrived safely to Santiago, 40 days after leaving Rio. Surely the Chileans have had little reason to fondly remember this Championship: besides the hellish journey, they placed last.”  Perseverance and true love of the game allows for someone to feel that its worth so much of  your time and energy. Whether they win or lose . . .



The next two videos are in relation to La Roja’s current soccer-fan history. The interactive dynamic between individual fan, soccer team and nationhood converting into a collective force and that converts these players into national heroes. The first one is a news coverage (by Ignacio Uribe of TVN’s 24 Horas) of the phenomenal moment at the 2014 World Cup at the Macarana Stadium in Brazil and the second video is one of the factors that lead up to that phenomenal singing uproar, that some compared to the Maori’s haka war cry. This second video was created by La Roja’s hinchas and demanded that the winner of the match at the Macarana, be the rightful owner of calling it’s team, “La Roja”.



This new story is titled “The Hymn That Thrilled the World”.  ENGLISH Fundi2 translation of news story highlights: It was two minutes of pure emotion when before the game 40,000 voices made our team feel at home at the Macarana. Calling attention throughout the world, this singing….was a touching electrifying moment when they forgot about FIFA rules and continued forth singing our national hymn acapella.  Enrique Aguayo, psicólogo psicología deportiva, Centro MEDS. then goes on to say (“Yo creo [que La Roja] partió ganando antes del pitazo inicial con el canto del himno con la pasion que cantaron los mismos jugadores ahí se armó una communion. Generalmente es una inyección de ánimo espectacular y se hace una unión con el público. Los jugadores normalmente plantean que es una gran energía que les ayuda concentrarse – los compromete más, los enfocan.”) “I think that Chile began winning before the kickoff with the singing of the hymn   the singing of the hymn with a passion that sang the same players there ensued a communion. Usually it is a energy boost and a connection is made with the public. Players usually state that it is a great power that helps them focus – it makes them more committed, the focus. The news story then shows media coverage of  From there the reporter, Ignacio Uribe picks up the news story narrative:  “Al himno recorrimos por diversos motivos. El principal, cuando sentimos que comos país somos protagonista de un hecho histórico.Para entonar los 33 mineros cuando para decir que habían ganado a la muerte. Los cantaron millones de chilenos cuando el país recuperó la democracia cuando se dejo atrás la estrofa de los valientes soldados la que muchas veces se escucho cuando una delegación deportativa lo represento.”  We seek out the hymn for various reasons. Principally, when we feel that as a country we will be a protagonist of a historic event. To sing forth as when the 33 miners in order to say that they had won to death. Million of Chileans sang it when the country returned to democracy when the stanza of the brave soldiers was left behind which had often been heard when the country had been represented by a sports delegation.

For a cited history of the use of “La Roja” as the nickname for the Chilean soccer team, Fundi2 found in the website “Palabra de Chile” (Word of Chile) by Pedro Vasquez, an excellent summary. In his article, titled “La Roja es Vuestra”, Pedro Vasquez wrote:”Empecemos  por Chile. La selección chilena empezó vistiendo cuna camiseta con dos franjas,  una roja y otra blanca. [LINK a fotografías originales de estos jerseys que datan de 1910.Posteriormente empezó a vestir de blanco, camiseta que  lució en el Mundial de 1930 y en otras ocasiones usaba camiseta roja, como en el  Sudamericano de 1942. En 1947 se decidió hacer oficial la camiseta  roja. La  primera referencia al color de la camiseta como apodo la encuentro en el  escritor paraguayo Horacio Escobar. En su libro Páginas de Gloria del Deporte Paraguayo (1955) dice: El  primer partido de la serie donde le cupo actuar a Paraguay, se realizó en  nuestra capital, el 14 de Febrero de 1954, y lo animaron, la albirroja del  fútbol paraguayo y la roja del chileno. Sin embargo el término  no cuajó y en los siguientes años no he podido encontrar más referencias al  apodo… hasta 1980 donde la publicación Hoy empieza a usarlo con frecuencia y el  término se extiende. En 1985 Edgardo Marín escribe el libro  La roja de todos: selección chilena de fútbol 1910-1985. Y desde entonces ha  sido el término usado por los chilenos para referirse a su  selección.”  ENGLISH Fundi2 translation: Let’s start with Chile. The Chilean team began wearing [it’s] “birth” shirt of two stripes, one red and one white.[LINK to original photographs of these jerseys dating to 1910.] Later they began to wear white, shirt she wore to the 1930 World Cup and sometimes wore a red shirt, as in the Copa America of 1942. In 1947 it was decided to make official, the red shirt. The first reference to the color of the shirt as a [team] nickname in a sports encounter, was by the Paraguayan writer Horacio Escobar. In his book Pages of the Glory of Paraguayan Sport (1955) he says: “The first game of the series, where it was possible for Paraguay to act, was held in our capital, on February 14, 1954, of which was animated by, La Albirroja (white and red) of Paraguayan football and the Red of the Chilean. However, the term did not catch on and  for the following years I have been unable to find references to the nickname. . .until 1980 when the publication  HOY started using the term frequently and it’s use spreads. In 1985 Edgardo Marin wrote the book, La roja de todos: selección chilena de fútbol 1910-1985 (The Red of All of Us: Chilean Soccer Team 1910-1985). And since then it has been the term used by the Chileans to refer to their selection.


Aside from the Chilean team having its team nickname, recently two professors,  Axel Pickett and Danielo Díaz  wrote a book titled “Los Apodos de La Roja”  (The Nicknames of The Red), which is not only about the nicknames and their meanings and/or origins of the different soccer players but also covers Chilean gols, titles, clubs. The book covers 400 nicknames and has them classified according to category. To name a few: (1) Los Cara Algo (The ones who have faces of a _____) like for example “el cara de pato” (face of a duck), ” el cara gato”(face of a cat), “el cara cacho”, “cara de vieja”(face of an old hag). Then there’s the category of (2) Cruel names, like (Ronald “Chilenita” Fuentes (because his Chilenita missed the goal),  Rubin Espinoza – “El Casi Casi” (The Almost Almost), (3) Los Geográficos/Geographic nicknames (Luis “Carampgue  Zambrano”, Hector “El Ligua Puebla”),  (4) Los Plumíferos (Winged Animal names) (los pollos, patos, chingoles, los condors),  (5) Los Felinos/The Felines (El Tigre Sorel, El Gato fred, Fernando “León Astengo”), (6) Los Comestibles (the Edible Ones) like el Manuel “Lechuga Araya”, el “Huevito Valencia”, el “Huevo Soto”  (7) Los Igualito a – ironicos (The ironic just likes___), like “Igualito a Brad Pitt” (just like Brad Pitt), (8) Igualitos a personajes de comics como Bam Bam Zamorano  and the nickname that Axel loves best is a player nicknamed after a much disputed match, Manuel “El Discutible” Arancibia.  When asked why they wrote the book – or the inspiration – the writer, Axel Pickett feels that the players “logran una identificación con la gente a partir de su apodos: una familiaridad, una cotidiana un cariño, un reconocimiento, una pertenencia que los involucran con un punto de la sociedad.”  Due to their nicknames, they attain an identification with the public: a familiarity, an everyday affection, a recognition,  a belonging that engages them with a point [their fans] in the society. from the most commercially successful 2010 Chilean documentary titled ” Ojos Rojos” (Red Eyes) by film makers, Juan Pablo Sallato, Ismael Larraín and Juan Ignacio Sabatini. the hero  triumphs and defeats.

SInce all soccer cups are a “fiesta”, party!  We will end this article with a final quote and last year’s 2015 top 5 dance beats related to the Copa America in Chile….  TVN’s Ranking Musical de los ritmos tropicales – Musical Ranking of tropical sounds by Chilean bands: (5) “El Nino Maravilla” – Tomo Como Rey (4) “Rey Arturo” – Noche de Brujas (3) “Palo de Pinilla” – Kumbia Hits (2) “Gary” – La Pichanga (1) “Copa America” – Leo Mendez.


We end with a final quote from once again preeminent, Eduardo Galeano that outlines soccer’s many fascinating facets: “Soccer is a feast for the eyes that watch it and a joy for the body that plays it”.

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