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ISBN 9781802070491

Football and Nation Building in Colombia (2010-2018)

The Only Thing That Unites Us





Liverpool University Press


Resumo (outro idioma)

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.


Introduction, 1

The problems with nation building and national identity in Colombia, 8
The weak State, 13
Colombia versus Narcolombia: a history of violence, 15
Book overview, 19

Chapter 1: Football and nation in Latin America, 23
Football nationalism, 23
Football as ritual, 26
Requirements for football nationalism, 28
Political use of football in Latin America, 31
Women’s football and nation, 32
Conclusion: a game anyone can play, 33

Chapter 2: ‘Football is the only thing that unites us’: a history of football nationalism in Colombia, 35
Football for national encounters, 35
Football’s unifying power in Colombia, 37
The requirements for sporting nationalism, 39
The multiple births of Colombian football, 40
El Dorado: first international football recognition, 42
The ‘creolization’ of Colombian football and the search for footballing identity, 45
The search for success, 1954–1985, 50
A golden generation in the darkest years – 1985–1994: the genesis of the Colombian style, 53
Colombia versus Narcolombia, 61 Conclusion: a symbol waiting to be used, 66

Chapter 3: ‘#VamosColombia’: the footballization of Colombia and nation building by Santos through speeches and tweets, 69
Introduction: Santos’s vision for sport, 69
Previous work on Santos’s sporting discourse, 73
Public discourse, narratives of the nation and football, 77
Methodology, 79
Santos’s sport-related speech strategy, 83
Selling Colombia’s image abroad, 85
Trends in Santos’s speeches, 88
Legitimation, 89
Justification of sport and its deployment, 92
Twitter use and strategy, 113
Results on Twitter use, 114
Aestheticization of tweets – strengthening the message, 120
The FARC’s football rhetoric, 125
Most common tweet topics, 127
Government self-legitimation in tweets, 128 Talking and tweeting about women’s football, 136
Conclusion: talking a good game? 138

Chapter 4: ‘The route for action’: football-specific legislation and public policy, 141
Introduction: tackling violence in football, 141
A greater role for Coldeportes, 145 Violence in Colombian football and the need for legislation, 148
Negotiations between State and barras, 150
Pre-Santos legislation: laws 1270 and 1356 and decrees 1267 and 1717, 153
A statement of intent: the ‘Football Law’, 156
Acknowledging fans’ rights: the ‘Statute for Fans’, 158
Barras Building a Country, 160
The Ten-Year Plan for Security, Comfort and Coexistence in Football – consultation phase, 162
The PDSCCF: content, 167
Implementation of the PDSCCF, 174
Conclusion: paper promises, 182

Chapter 5: Football for peace: football-based government SDP campaigns towards nation building, 185
Introduction, 185
Recognition of football’s power for social development in Colombia, 188
The UN and the power of sport, 192 Academic responses to SDP, 194
Origins of the football for peace methodology and Golombiao, 198
Increased emphasis on Social and Community Sport in Coldeportes, 202
Coldeportes in the FARC transition and reintegration camps, 210
Conclusion: a lasting impact for SDP? 220
Conclusion: #OneCountryOnAPitch? 225
Football and nation beyond Santos, 231
References, 241 Newspapers and websites, 256
Films and videos, 264
Personal interviews, 266
Index, 267


WATSON, Peter J.. Football and Nation Building in Colombia (2010-2018): The Only Thing That Unites Us. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2022.

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