Sport in Argentina
The popularity and participation of sport is mixed in Argentina, partly because of the diversity of its population and partly because of the nation’s size and varying climates. Far and away the most popular sport is football with the country producing some of the best players in the world including the current best in Barcelona’s Lionel Messi. Other sports such as basketball and hockey are also popular.
Association football is easily the most popular sport played and watched in Argentina becoming an integral part of the nation’s culture. The national team has won the FIFA World Cup twice and has won gold at the Olympic Games twice in succession. It’s also won the Copas America fourteen times and the confederations cup once. On the domestic level the top league is the Argentine Primera division with the biggest teams being Boca Juniors, River Plate and Independiente.
This game is played on horseback and combines elements of basketball and polo. The name is Spanish for duck as in early versions of the sport a live duck was used instead of a ball. Pato was banned several times during its history due to the violence-not only to the duck; many players were trampled underfoot, and many more lost their lives in knife fights started in the heat of the game. In 1796, a Catholic priest insisted that Pato players who died in such a way should be denied Christian burial. Government ordinances forbidding the practice of Pato were common throughout the 19th century. Strangely this bizarre game was made Argentina’s national sport in 1953.
Rugby union is growing in popularity in Argentina but it is still a relatively amateur sport. Despite the amateurism the national team has gone on to become one of the most powerful in the sport after finishing third in the 2007 Rugby World Cup and rising as high as third in the world rankings.
The Argentine female hockey team is often one of the top contenders in the world’s tournaments for the sport, winning the world cup twice in 2002 and 2012. In the Olympic Games the nation has won the silver medal in 2000 and again in 2012. The men’s team has also had success winning the Pan American championships eight times!