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History of Uruguayan Men’s Football – A Big Lesson to Learn!
Soccer and Human Development
Uruguay’s performance in the 2010 World Cup has come as a surprise to many who have seen his triumphs and dreams. In 1997 Uruguay’s team, a fierce rival, took a quantum leap as they came close to winning the FIFA World Under-20 Cup in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, beating Ghana and Ireland. Since then, the national team has not won the tournament, but they paved the way for Uruguay’s World Cup football team in South Africa in June 2010.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the eyes of the world were on Uruguay. why The national team -made up of mostly unknown players– became one of the best four teams in the world, knocking out the bookies’ favourites, Brazil -made up of world famous footballers. After defeating four teams: South Africa, Mexico, South Korea and Ghana, the nation–which traditionally dominated the first half of the 20th century–became the first Latin American nation in 8 years to reach the men’s semifinals. the final
Uruguay’s success came despite many obstacles: a small nation of about 4 million people, player exodus, lack of sponsors and traditional rivals (Brazil and Argentina). In addition to these obstacles, the country has one of the lowest sports budgets in the Western Hemisphere. Yet, two factors have contributed to the development of soccer: human development and determination.
1) Human Development: Because of its remarkable human development—healthcare, nutrition, education, and recreation—Uruguay has been considered one of the developing world’s most recurrent democracies—the envy of many Spanish-speaking republics in the region—since the mid-1980s. By the mid-1990s, the UNDP’s Human Development Index ranked Uruguay–which lacked mineral resources such as oil, gas, silver, and gold–ranked 32nd out of 173 nations and was dependent. In other words, improving the lives of Uruguayan children is one of the government’s first priorities. In fact, these policies have improved the country’s athletic performance as well as increased national pride. As a result, the national under-17 football team won the right to participate in the 1991 World Junior Championship, which was repeated in 1999, 2005 and 2009.
2)-Determination and Passion: If one word can describe the Uruguayan team, it is “determination”. Despite being made up of unknown players, the national team was undaunted by world-renowned teams like France (who failed to meet expectations), Germany and the Netherlands. At the 2010 World Cup, Uruguay, geographically one of the smallest republics in the Western Hemisphere, won the respect of fans and pundits for their determination and passion. Since then, he, the Uruguayan team, has been aware of the country’s history as one of the great promoters of football. These players are symbols of hope and courage.
Dictatorship and Soccer
After the 1973 auto-coup, the country’s then head of state José María Bordaberri, an anti-Marxist strongman, installed a de facto dictatorship, which marked Uruguay after a series of problems. The country’s international image was tarnished by the regime’s poor human rights and anti-democratic projects. In this environment, sport was not one of the priorities of Uruguayan dictators, unlike other dictators in the region, Jorge Rafael Videla of Argentina (1976–1981) and Juan Velasco Alvarado of Peru (1968–1975).
Over the years, the military regime overturned most of the Olympic policies. In fact, football, which boosted national identity in the first half of the 20th century, entered a period of decline. After Uruguay’s participation in the World Cup in West Germany in June 1974, where it finished 14th, for example, the nation lost the chance to win an Olympic medal because it refused to send soccer players to the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal (Canada). However, his most unsuccessful year was 1977 when Uruguay lost 1–0 to Bolivia and missed out on the 1978 World Cup. There is no doubt that the morale of the Uruguayan players, who once defeated Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, was low.
As of July 1979, surprisingly the national team did not participate in the Pan American Games in San Juan de Puerto Rico (where they were heavy-favorites). But it wasn’t for lack of talent. Before this multi-sport event, Uruguayan players claimed the 1979 South American Under-20 tournament. In the early 1980s, Colombia decided not to participate in the Continental Olympic Games. What’s more, despite winning the Golden Cup in Montevideo, the team once again failed to qualify for the 1982 World Cup as the South American failed to win the eliminations.
Due to economic instability, corruption and human rights abuses, around 200 soccer players left the country. On the other hand, in 1984, the anti-communist dictatorship stepped down after 11 years.
Once in Uruguay…
In the first half of the 20th century, Uruguay – slightly smaller than Missouri – wrote one of the most remarkable chapters in Latin American history as the country won praise from the international community for its support of democracy, human rights and human development. As a result, Uruguay has the highest per capita income in the Western Hemisphere, compared to Switzerland and other European nations. In parallel, the Spanish-speaking republic boasted one of the most important Olympic projects on the American mainland.
In fact, along with education, sport was a high priority for the Uruguayan regime. It was during this period–considered the “Golden Age” of Uruguayan history–that the national team was the leader in soccer on the planet. Since then, football stars including Obdulio Varela–who led the national team to win the 1950 FIFA World Cup–José Nasazzi and Pedro Ca–who led the Uruguayan Olympic football team to gold medals in Paris 1924 and Amsterdam 1928–were known in schools, universities and factories.
At their peak, the Uruguayan team — a great Latin American glory — won back-to-back Olympic football gold medals in 1924 — at the time no other Latin American country had even won the Olympian trophy — and 1928, also the first. Men’s World Cup title in 1930. On the other hand, these victories are considered one of the most remarkable stories of soccer, inspiring Brazil to build a world-class team. Yet the most notable achievement came in the 1950s. That year, the Uruguayan national football team won the World Cup by defeating Brazil, the host country, at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. The country’s victory is a milestone in the history of football.
These achievements gave the South American nation a reputation in the world for its size and population. Certainly, the democratic system did much to win international conventions. Unfortunately, these victories did not continue with the establishment of a military dictatorship in the early 70s.
Uruguay – the country of sports lovers
Since the 1970s, governments have not given much priority to sports. Despite this, Uruguay – with a population of 4 million – has unusual champs, including Ana Maria Norbis (aquatics), Fiorella Bonicelli (tennis), Sergio Lafuente (weightlifting) and Ricardo Vera (track and field). Meanwhile, his basketball players were also particularly successful. At the FIBA Colombia World Championship in the early 80s, Uruguayan athlete Wilfredo Ruiz was the first top scorer. Two years later, in 1984, for example, the national basketball team defeated Canada and earned the right to compete in the Los Angeles Summer Olympics (where they finished sixth). Uruguay previously became the only Latin American team to win two consecutive Olympic basketball bronze medals.
In addition to soccer and basketball, Uruguay has gained acclaim for its international cyclists and rowers. In the 80s, the country’s sprinter Jesús Posse came close to winning a gold medal in a world championship dominated by Eastern Europe. At the 2000 Oceania Summer Games, cyclist Milton Wybants was first runner-up, behind Spain’s Juan Llaneras.
Finally, the Uruguayan government must plan an ambitious program to place Uruguay — sometimes referred to as the “Switzerland of America” – among the top ten sporting nations this century. Like South Korea, one of the world’s most successful Olympic nations since 1988, the Spanish-speaking republic should think big.
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