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Faith In Football

41KtvjU6HDL._SY346_Great Expectations: Chile’s 99-Year quest for the South American Soccer Championship by Thomas Jerome Baker. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Be for-warned that I love futbol (soccer), so am pre-disposed to like almost anything about the subject. Having stated that fact, it is still a nice surprise to read something about the sport that I did not know. I knew very little about the history of Chilean futbol, until now. Great Expectations provides a brief glimpse into the impacts soccer has had on the country, and people, since the ANFF (Football Federation of Chile) was founded in 1895. It is a heart-breaking history.

In 1920, Chile loses out on winning the South American Championship by falling to Uruguay by one goal. In 1945 they lose by one goal to Brazil, in the same tournament. Nineteen-fifty-two comes around, with the Pan American Games, and they lose to Brazil by three goals. Three years later, it is Argentina who knocks them off the winners podium by defeating them 1-0. In 1956 Chile comes in second in the South American Championship. It takes Chile 40 years before they ever beat Brazil.

Mr. Baker adeptly points out some of the psychological, and organizational reasons, that have kept the people and players going through so many defeats, including descriptions of the terms “jinx, “hex”, “charm”, and “curse”. He says, “Chile has a 100-year history of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.” This lasts until the glorious year of the 2015 South American Championships, when Chile beats Argentina in the final and wins it all for the first time ever! Alexis Sanchez kicks a penalty kick past the goal keeper and “Seventeen million Chileans celebrate across the globe”.

Great Expectations gives us one of the best descriptions of what futbol (soccer) means to many around the world, not just Chileans, that I’ve ever read. “In this new religion, a football stadium is a place where individual and national identity is built and rebuilt, imagined and re-imagined.” Chile has seen themselves for many years through the eyes of their national team. In the past, that message was always that they just weren’t “quite good enough”. They stuck by them however, generation after generation. As Pope Francis II said, “Amongst all unimportant subjects, football is by far the most important.”

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