Football and Nation Building in Colombia (2010-2018)

BookOpen AccessFootball and Nation Building in Colombia (2010-2018)

Football and Nation Building in Colombia (2010-2018)

The Only Thing That Unites Us

Liverpool Latin American Studies, 24


June 9th, 2022


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An Open Access edition of this book is available on the Liverpool University Press website and the OAPEN library as part of the Opening the Future project with COPIM.
This book explores the pivotal role that football played as part of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos’ national unity project centred on the peace process with the FARC. Football has huge political and social capital in Latin America, and has often been rhetorically deployed by governments for various ends; rarely, however, has football’s power and potential been used in such a deliberate, strategic and active way towards a national peace process and targeted such enduring divisions that have historically impeded a sense of a united nation and national identity. Football in Colombia is understood popularly as one of the few things capable of uniting the country, a belief that Santos seized upon as the national team had a successful campaign in the 2014 World Cup. This first book on Colombian football in English explores previous iterations of football nationalism in the country, including the El Dorado and ‘Narcofootball’ eras, before analysing Santos’ three-pronged strategy empowering professional and amateur football, including the use of political speeches and Twitter, legislation and public policy, and Sport for Development and Peace campaigns, with a particular focus on football in the FARC demobilisation and reincorporation camps following the historic peace agreement.

Author Information

Peter J. Watson is a Teaching Fellow in Spanish and Latin American Studies in the Department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies at the University of Leeds.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
List of tables and illustrations9
The problems with nation building and national identity in Colombia24
The weak State29
Colombia versus Narcolombia: a history of violence31
Book overview35
Chapter 1. Football and nation in Latin America39
Football nationalism39
Football as ritual42
Requirements for football nationalism44
Political use of football in Latin America47
Women’s football and nation48
Conclusion: a game anyone can play49
Chapter 2. ‘Football is the only thing that unites us’: a history of football nationalism in Colombia51
Football for national encounters51
Football’s unifying power in Colombia53
The requirements for sporting nationalism55
The multiple births of Colombian football56
El Dorado: first international football recognition58
The ‘creolization’ of Colombian football and the search for footballing identity61
The search for success, 1954–198566
A golden generation in the darkest years – 1985–1994: the genesis of the Colombian style69
Colombia versus Narcolombia77
Conclusion: a symbol waiting to be used82
Chapter 3. ‘#VamosColombia’: the footballization of Colombia and nation building by Santos through speeches85
Introduction: Santos’s vision for sport85
Previous work on Santos’s sporting discourse89
Public discourse, narratives of the nation and football93
Santos’s sport-related speech strategy99
Selling Colombia’s image abroad101
Trends in Santos’s speeches104
Justification of sport and its deployment108
Twitter use and strategy129
Results on Twitter use130
Aestheticization of tweets – strengthening the message136
The FARC’s football rhetoric141
Most common tweet topics143
Government self-legitimation in tweets144
Talking and tweeting about women’s football152
Conclusion: talking a good game?154
Chapter 4. ‘The route for action’: football-specific legislation and public policy157
Introduction: tackling violence in football157
A greater role for Coldeportes161
Violence in Colombian football and the need for legislation164
Negotiations between State and barras166
Pre-Santos legislation: Laws 1270 and 1356 and Decrees 1267 and 1717169
A statement of intent: the ‘Football Law’172
Acknowledging fans’ rights: the ‘Statute for Fans’174
Barras Building a Country176
The Ten-Year Plan for Security, Comfort and Coexistence in Football – consultation phase178
The PDSCCF: content183
Implementation of the PDSCCF190
Conclusion: paper promises198
Chapter 5. Football for peace: football-based government SDP campaigns towards nation building201
Recognition of football’s power for social development in Colombia204
The UN and the power of sport208
Academic responses to SDP210
Origins of the football for peace methodology and Golombiao214
Increased emphasis on Social and Community Sport in Coldeportes218
Coldeportes in the FARC transition and reintegration camps226
Conclusion: a lasting impact for SDP?236
Conclusion: #OneCountryOnAPitch?241
Football and nation beyond Santos247
Newspapers and websites272
Films and videos280
Personal interviews282