In the 1950s, amateur sports clubs in Santiago, Chile created a magnetic icon of the popular barrio or neighborhood football player. This figure became a charismatic symbol of working-class ingenuity and class injustice. It represented an alternative construction of masculinity based on one's physical labor, creativity, and political militancy. Popular neighborhood clubs integrated working-class men into urban politics, connected them to parties, and served as sites of political critique. This article argues that barrio football clubs contributed to radicalization in working-class neighborhoods, key to the growth of leftist parties on a national level. It begins with an analysis of San Miguel, a center of barrio football, and then moves to examine the relationship between amateur and professional clubs. Professionals, led by corporate executives with strong connections to the state, sought to de-politicize and de-localize football to create a profitable business. Shaped by Cold War rhetoric, battle lines had been drawn between those who embraced professionalism as part of economic modernization and progress and the amateur footballers who criticized its materialism and corruption. Moreover, practices surrounding women's participation, use of state resources, and the proper place of political expression created lasting divisions.


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pp. 605-630
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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