When the World Cup kicks off in São Paulo on 12 June, it will feel, for many, as if football has returned to its spiritual home – a remarkable notion given that little more than a century ago the game was principally a pastime for small groups of rich European expats. Now, as Andreas Campomar observes in his absorbing and entertaining ¡Golazo!, ‘Wherever it is played, well or badly, football for all Latin Americans remains an expression of culture and identity.’
It was Argentina – along with neighbouring Uruguay – who first took the game bequeathed by the British and transformed it into a style they called simply la nuestra (our way). They championed their Creole picardía (craftiness) and viveza (cunning), while simultaneously taking pride in being the most ‘European’ of Latin American countries.
Argentina’s relationship with the English ‘masters’, both off and on the field, has been complicated ever since. One of many flashpoints occurred in the bad-tempered quarter-final of the 1966 World Cup when Argentina’s captain, Antonio Rattín, was controversially sent off and refused to leave the Wembley pitch. Afterwards the England