There were ugly scenes in Argentinian soccer last week, after Boca Juniors fan Adrian Napolitano sprayed pepper spray into the faces of the opposing team during a crucial last-16 cup tie against arch-rivals River Plate. Boca Juniors were subsequently thrown out of the Copa Libertadores after scenes of chaos on the pitch and violence off it.
As a result, this week we decided to focus on the other sports played in Argentina – everything except fútbol.
(times in brackets show roughly when we talk about each of these topics in the podcast)
Apart from being a football-mad nation, Argentina is well-known for its relationship with horses – and polo in particular (1:56). While polo has a long-standing tradition in Argentina it is not the most common participant sport. Not least because only a select few have access to a large field, selection of horses and group of friends who know how to ride!
While football is undoubtedly the most popular sport in the country, the official national sport is el pato (3:14). On the surface it is similar to polo in many ways: both games are played on horseback, with a teams of four riders (jinetes) on each side. While polo is played using a mallet on a long stick to hit a ball through goals at either end of the field, juego del pato is more similar to basketball on horseback.
El Pato – Deporte Nacional de Argentina
El pato literally means ‘the duck’, as it was originally played using a live duck (3:47), with teams of four riders taking the duck from one ranch house to the other to score points. Now the pato is made of a kind of a ball with handles around the outside. Riders need to be very skillful as they need to hang from the side of their horse to pick up it up from the ground. It sounds incredibly dangerous!
Neither of us have been to a game before (5:40), but if you are in Buenos Aires, you may be able to see one at Campo Argentino de Polo de Palermo (not La Rural as we suggest in the recording).
“La Tigresa” Acuña
Among the individual sports stars to come from the country are boxers, including female World champion 2008-2013 Marcela “La Tigresa” Acuña (9:36).
Another true sports star from Argentina is hockey player Luciana Aymar – arguably the best ever. She retired in 2014 as the only person to receive eight player of the year awards (15:20).
Basketball is another popular sport (16:52), although many of the best Argentinian players leave the country to play in the NBA where they can earn many times more than in their home country.
Argentina also has had some top-ranking tennis players such as David Nalbandian, until injury forced his early retirement in 2013, and Del Potro – still one of the best and not from the 1990s as I thought! (20:19) The most successful female Argentine tennis player – Gabriela Sabatini – was at her peak in the early 1990s.
Cricket – Not (yet) popular…
It is hard to imagine cricket taking off in Argentina in the near future (18:57), but after some research, we were able to establish that Argentina does indeed have an official national team.
Silvina talked about the struggle that teachers face trying to get children to play anything other than football (22:00). Athletics, artistic gymnastics, volleyball, handball and lately, softball often have to be rewarded with a 30-minute game of football, just to get the kids to try something else.
¡Viva the beautiful game!
Help us grow… let a friend know
We are trying to let people know about our podcast without sending out tonnes of spam, so if you are enjoying the podcasts please help us to grow by clicking one of the share buttons or, if you have a friend who is learning Spanish, simply send them an email and let them know where they can find us.
Listen to the full episode below and leave a comment to let us know what you think (the podcast, as ever, is exclusively in Spanish)…
You can also follow us on Twitter at @learnargentina and subscribe on iTunes.