Soccer, or football as it is known in most parts of the world, has long been an integral part of the culture and identity in South America and Europe. Introduced by European immigrants in the early 20th century, the sport has since flourished in these regions. A testament to this can be witnessed in the recent FIFA friendly match held at the Gelora Bung Karno Main Stadium in Jakarta, where the Argentinian National Team defeated the Indonesian squad on Monday, 19th June 2023. Although Argentina’s coach, Lionel Scolani, chose not to field Lionel Messi and a couple of other star players, Argentina’s prowess was evident. Following their world championship victory at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Argentina confidently sits atop FIFA’s ranking, while Indonesia is ranked at 149th.
It’s hardly surprising considering Argentina’s position in Latin America, a region renowned for its rich football tradition. Countries such as Brazil, Uruguay, and Mexico are also included in this illustrious list. Moreover, Europe has its own bastions of football powerhouses, including nations like England, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Italy, and France.
Since its inception in 1930, the World Cup’s champions and runners-up have always hailed from either Europe or Latin America. While Africa consistently produces some of the world’s top football talents, no African nation has managed to clinch the title or even secure a runner-up position in the FIFA World Cup. This begs the question: Why is global football dominance so concentrated in these two regions – Latin America and Europe?
Big and Wealthy Nations Don’t Necessarily Excel in Football
Using simple logic, one might assume that countries with larger populations stand a better chance of producing top-tier national football teams or elite players than smaller nations. This assumption might be even more plausible if the country in question is wealthy. However, in reality, this isn’t always the case.
Large and economically advanced countries like the United States don’t necessarily dominate on the global football stage. The reason is that the United States lacks a deep-rooted football culture and history. The majority of Americans tend to favor sports like softball over soccer. Although the local football association has been pushing for innovations and promoting the Major League Soccer (MLS) in recent years, liga negara di Amerika Latin still doesn’t hold the same cultural significance in the U.S. as it does in other parts of the world.
The Blend of Historical Roots and Youth Development in Football
Certainly, various factors can explain why a country excels in international football. These range from historical and cultural significance, developmental programs, economic dynamics, strict regulations, and so forth.
The inception of football, or games resembling it, can be traced back centuries across various parts of the globe. However, the modern form of the game was pioneered in England during the 19th century. It evolved from traditional ball games played in different parts of England, which were later standardized with uniform rules.
In 1863, The Football Association was founded in England, establishing the first official rules known as the Cambridge Rules. From England, the game proliferated worldwide due to British colonization and trade.
By the late 19th and early 20th centuries, English workers, sailors, and missionaries introduced the game to South America, North America, Europe, and to countries in Asia, Africa, and Oceania. As football expanded, it adapted to local influences and rule tweaks. In nations like Brazil and Argentina, football rapidly gained immense popularity, becoming intertwined with local culture. Similarly, in European countries like Spain and Italy, the game saw immense adoration.
Consequently, in the early 20th century, global bodies like FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association) were established to regulate football and synchronize rules and competitions worldwide. The sport’s universal appeal made it the most popular game globally.
Given this deep-seated football culture in many European nations and their former Latin American colonies, such as Spain, France, England, and Portugal, it’s unsurprising that football became an inherent part of life in these areas. Introduced by European immigrants in the early 20th century, the game was swiftly embraced by the local populace.
With the modern evolution of the sport, countries in Europe and South America have entrenched traditions of cultivating young football talents. Countless youngsters start playing in streets, parks, and open fields from a tender age. These informal settings foster the development of vital game techniques, creativity, and rapid decision-making.
This grassroots nurturing coincides with robust and competitive league structures. For instance, England’s league system spans six tiers with subsequent divisions beneath. Intense competition exists among hundreds of professional and semi-professional clubs, vying for top-tier promotion and championships. Latin American leagues, like Argentina’s Liga, Brasileirão, or Copa Libertadores, are equally intense, drawing significant fan enthusiasm.
Such fierce competition hones players’ skills against high-quality opponents. Moreover, a well-structured league system facilitates the transition of young talents to higher echelons, providing invaluable experience. The football styles in South America and Europe are renowned for their flair, precision, and creativity, producing spectacular goals and tactics like the famed tiki-taka.
This attractive playstyle has birthed fervent fan groups, some even escalating to the radical ‘ultras’. Such fan devotion, combined with conducive and competitive regulations, attracts substantial investor interest. Consequently, the vast business potential of football compels investors to pour their capital into football clubs, perpetuating the sport’s global dominance.