When people think of the sport of football, the first thing that comes to mind is typically Europe. After all, the English Premier League is consistently ranked as the top league in the world, while others including the German Bundesliga, Spanish La Liga, Italian Serie A, and French Ligue 1 making up the rest of the top five of the global rankings.
That doesn’t mean that there isn’t top-flight football to be found around the rest of the world, though. Look no further than South America, which has a rich culture of football but tends to be slept on when it comes to attention until World Cup time comes around. If you haven’t watched South American football yet, you should be, as we’ll give you five reasons why the world should be paying more attention.
While not able to compete with the likes of the English Premier League or German Bundesliga, South America does have some very competitive leagues where the competition tends to be more balanced from top to bottom than in some of the higher-rated leagues. Primera A in Colombia is ranked as one of the best in South America, but the competition really comes in between the top two.
Argentina is home to the Primera Division, which was founded in 1891 and consists of 28 times. Boca Juniors has seen the most success in league history and is consistently one of the best international clubs outside of Europe. The top league in South America on a regular basis, though, is Brazil’s Serie A. Though the league is much younger than the Primera Division, Serie A is home to perennial powerhouse Palmeiras and is the highest-rated football league in the world outside of Europe, coming in at number seven in the global rankings.
Some of the World’s Best Players
The European leagues may be able to entice some of the best South American players to make their way across the Atlantic thanks to the massive amounts of money that pour through the leagues, the fact still remains that some of the best players in football history hail from South America. Some could even argue, in fact, that the sport’s two best-ever are South Americans.
For many years, Brazil’s Pele was considered the greatest of all time thanks to his massive amount of goals and ability to grow the sport in the western hemisphere. Then, a few decades later, Argentina’s Lionel Messi came along and racked up enough individual awards in the sport’s highest-level leagues to become considered the best ever. Other legendary South American footballers include Diego Maradona, Alfredo Di Stefano, Ronaldo, Zico, and many, many more.
When you look at the most popular sport in every country of South America, baseball is king in Venezuela while cricket is the most beloved in Guyana. In every other country in the continent, however, the answer is easily football. Some of the world’s most passionate football fans can be found in South America, with two countries, in particular, standing out: Argentina and Brazil. Both countries ranked among the top five in most passionate fanbases according to one major survey.
As for Argentina, the survey found that a whopping 90 percent of the population considers themselves to be football fans. When the World Cup comes around, it seems like that number swells to nearly 100, especially after 2022 when the Argentines took home the title for the first time in 36 years. In the case of Brazil, almost every football expert has said that their support is far and away the most passionate that they have ever seen.
Speaking of Argentina football fans, a vast majority of those are supporters of either Boca Juniors or River Plate. The two clubs have the support of more than 70 percent of the people in Argentina, making their rivalry (the Superclasico) one of the fiercest that the world knows. Some have ranked it only behind Celtic vs. Rangers as the biggest and best.
While the Superclasico may be the biggest draw in terms of rivalry, there are still plenty of others that deserve worldwide attention. The Paulista Derby between Corinthians and Palmeiras dates back to 1917 and shuts down the city of Sao Paulo during every showdown. Some of the other fantastic South American football rivalries include the Clasico de Avellaneda (Independiente vs. Racing), and Uruguay’s Clasico (Penarol vs. Nacional).
Different Style of Play
If you like a fast-paced style of football where teams are focused on striking more than anything else as part of their strategy, then you should really be watching more South American teams. The style of play throughout much of the world is focused on minimalizing mistakes and maintaining possession, but it’s more fast and loose in South America.
This is why you see some of the best scorers in football history come from South America, as they’re accustomed to having to find small spaces and explode through them while being able to dribble. It’s quite impressive to see the athleticism and quickness required to score for these clubs.