"I jump into a sand pit for a living"
Sport in Latin America
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Gonzaio Bravo,Rosa Lopez de D’Amico and Charles Parrish Ed., London, Routledge, 2016. ISBN 978-0-415-74589-5This book consists in a collection of academic essays seeking to address how sport is managed both across the Latin American region, and in specific Caribbean, South and Central American countries. Common themes emerge throughout the different essays, such as the influence of the national government on sport, their policies and motives behind them, and the financial issues that involve public and private sectors, in situations past and present. For example, Bedoya and Fernandez in chapter eight examine how the Colombian government have chosen to invest 75% of the funds for their ten-year plan in elite sports rather than mass participation, which provokes questions about their aims.
It is also frequently noted at just how little academic material has been dedicated to the organisation of sport in Latin American countries, and this collection aims to act as a forerunner for subsequent research.
Chapter seven, on sports policy in Cuba, is a good example of the complexities and grey areas that plague sporting infrastructure across Latin America, with the heavy influence of politics, economy and national pride. For example, those pursuing a professional baseball career outside of the country were considered traitors upon their return; and yet many of the country’s best trainers and coaches have opted share their expertise elsewhere, settling abroad due to the restrictions on income, where personal earnings must be put back into the system. Pye and Pettavino hint that success in sport seems to go hand in hand only with the capitalist system, which Cuba finds itself resorting to today in order to save its flagging economy.
I was particularly interested to read chapter four, “Latin American women and leadership in sports”, beyond the statistics of women simply playing sport at a recreational or elite level. Perhaps not surprisingly, D’Amico points out the lack of opportunity for women in “decision-making positions” across Latin America, and emphasises the danger of “harmful stereotypes”. As a resident in Argentina, it was also interesting to read the authors’ analysis of the country’s political culture reflected in the management of the Argentine Football Association under Julio Humberto Grondona (chapter sixteen), putting into words some of my own unarticulated observations during the last seven years living here.
In the preface, the editors acknowledge the difficulties in collecting reliable data in order to compile material on the subject matter, due to the limited specialist study within Latin American countries, with a large percentage of the little academic material that is available being contributed by scholars outside the region. Furthermore, information may not necessarily have been recorded or written down, or may not have even passed through the system, as was noted in chapter ten regarding labour migration in professional sport.
This is a brave attempt by the editors to provide a “behind the scenes” panorama of sport in Latin America, notably how the past has affected the present, and how the present could affect the future.
Laura Kyte de Gonzalez