Elsey, Brenda, and Joshua H. Nadel. Futbolera: A History of Women and Sports in Latin America. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, 2019.
Fubolera: A History of Women and Sports in Latin America is a book about women who struggled throughout much of their lives, without support from local communities and leaders in sports, relationships, education, and social opportunities in general. Esley and Nadel explored the lives of women in Latin America during the second half of the nineteenth century, including gendered expectations and sexuality development. From the beginning, they state that the book “focuses on the relationships of women to civic associations, including sports clubs, physical education teams, or union leagues, and the significance that sports have in women’s lives.” Women were underappreciated, which meant overcoming adversity throughout much of the twentieth century. [“Futbolera” is a way to refer to a woman or girl who plays football (soccer).]
The beginning chapters of this book start with a talk about physical education and women’s sports in Argentina, Chile, and Brazil. Women throughout this time encouraged governments to have a better way of advancing women’s health. In the first chapter, we are introduced to a woman by the name of Juana Gremler, who worked for a girl’s school, where she requested funds to go towards physical education. Gremler’s actions and future hopes asked for one thing, and that was for change through the curriculum, “Gremler’s curriculum prioritized physical education because she believed that in addition to physical health, it built moral fortitude.” This alone allows you to get the feeling of how this book flows, and how it can connect to certain individuals. I enjoyed the rise of women’s sport throughout the book. On page 192, it describes how Mexican women’s soccer erupted, “Women’s football exploded in the late 1960s, not only in Mexico City but also all around the country.” Throughout the book, you are left with such suspense on what is going to happen next, but once you find out that these women are on the rise, you feel complete. This rise gave opportunities and hope for physical education teachers and journalists, on page 192, “Journalists and physical education teachers saw an opportunity to create institutions around this energy.” Men began to support this trend, “Few supportive men began to set the groundwork for a women’s football league around the capital, and within two years the numbers of leagues grew.” Elsey and Nadel’s work help understand the growth and development of women’s sports and role throughout the 19th century.
After reading Futbolera, it will leave you in different spots on how to rate this book. Personally, I really enjoyed reading it but left me in a frustrated type mood. It left me this way because of the enjoyment of learning new things about women’s social history, but also the hate to hear what those women went through. This is what I dislike about the book. It gives you so much to feel and think about and makes me believe it is one of the book’s weaknesses. I would like others to read and give feedback on how they feel about Futbolera because I’m still stuck. Although there are points of the book where I feel are weak, there are other aspects of the book I enjoyed. I enjoyed the extended research these authors provided. Futbolera doesn’t just provide the outline of how female athletes in Latin America, but shows the grit and struggle these women went through. It is very well written, helping readers understand the past of the controlling of women’s bodies. Futbolera contains great research that embodies so much. This book should be available to students and soccer fans. The historical information given by the authors helps readers understand the past, allowing women to get past being speechless. Latin America is known for their countries’ great history in sports, but women’s restriction to do as they please and have the funds for physical education is shortened before they know it.
I recommend this book to anyone who loves sports and the history of Latin American women. It gives an inside of what female athletes went through, and how they overcame obstacles. Although I am not a huge soccer fan, this book, Futbolera, allows an easier reading, while finding it engaging. The chapters go through different countries and their use of women’s competition through life and sports with arguments that the book has. One argument would be that women still have unequal treatment. It was a problem in the nineteenth century, and still is to this day. It makes you wonder why women have had unequal opportunities and moments since then, and how it hasn’t changed throughout history. Overall, Futbolera is a great book. Women were crucial to the development and scene of sports clubs in Latin America, especially through the history of futbol clubs.