Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Raanan Rein's "Fútbol, Jews, and the Making of Argentina"

Raanan Rein is Sourasky Professor of Latin American and Spanish History at Tel Aviv University, Israel.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Fútbol, Jews, and the Making of Argentina, and reported the following:
This book focuses on the history of the Club Atletico Atlanta, a soccer/football club located in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Villa Crespo. I consider soccer as a privileged avenue in Argentina for negotiating social, ethnic and gender identities. Although populated by many ethnic groups, Villa Crespo has long been considered, by Jews and non-Jews alike, as a Jewish neighborhood. Since the mid-20th century, Jews have constituted a substantial proportion of the fans, administrators and presidents of Atlanta, so much so that the fans of rival teams often chant anti-Semitic slogans during matches.

Page 99 begins a discussion about a critical stage in Argentine history, including the history of sports. The rise of a populist movement headed by the charismatic Juan Perón changed the rules of the political game to this day. The use and abuse of sports by the Perón regime influenced the history of Club Atlanta, as well as the relations of Jewish-Argentines with the government. The bond between Atlanta and Juan and Evita Perón started in 1944, when club members, many of them Jewish, donated money in order to assist the victims of the San Juan earthquake. They were part of a nationwide solidarity campaign headed by Juan Perón.

In the following years Atlanta, like many other soccer clubs, enjoyed financial support from the regime and paid back by expressing support of the government. The planned stadium of Atlanta was supposed to be named after Eva Perón. However, the military coup d'etat that deposed Perón in September 1955 also put an end to this plan. The new national authorities briefly closed the Villa Crespo stadium, a measure motivated by political consideration. The Jewish image of the neighborhood, and, by extension, of Club Atlanta, may have contributed to a certain attitude of suspicion and mistrust on the part of the new government. It was a time when nationalistic Catholic groups were distributing anti-Semitic pamphlets that included accusations against the Jews and the Masons of supposedly encouraging Perón to enter into a conflict with the Catholic Church.

The Jewish identity of Club Atlanta is similar to the one of Ajax Amsterdam and London's Tottenham Hotspur. The book thus discusses identity issues within and without the stadium and the cases in which identity is assumed by people or imposed on them.
Learn more about Fútbol, Jews, and the Making of Argentina at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue