The next Luis Suárez: “Baby Futbol” in Uruguay
The next stop for Goal Click is Montevideo, Uruguay, where our photos come from professional photographer Agustin Fernández Gabard. Agustin chose "baby futbol" in Montevideo as his subject, documenting a match between Estrella del Sur and Enrique Lopez at the Enrique Lopez field in Barrio Sur, Montevideo. We spoke to Agustin about youth football in Uruguay and the Uruguayan mentality towards the game.
Why did you choose “baby futbol” as your subject?
I chose “baby futbol” because it is very representative of Uruguayan football. In Montevideo there is at least one "baby futbol" team in every neighbourhood, and in many cases it is a very pure version of football, without the pressure of professionalism.
What is unique about Uruguayans and how they play?
In Uruguay everybody plays football from a young age. When you are a little child you get together with your friends to play football. Everyone plays, everyone runs (except the goalkeeper!). That also happens in Brazil, but the difference with Uruguayan players is that most of them are fighters; they do not give up easily. They play better against tough teams or when they are playing with fewer players, they find strength through adversity. Luis Suárez is the best example of that!
What did you try to show with the photos? Was there any wider meaning?
This was a match between Estrella del Sur and Enrique Lopez at the Enrique Lopez field in Barrio Sur, Montevideo.
I tried to show the game and the environment, not just the boys playing but also how the parents “live the match”. This match is very representative of “baby football” in Montevideo, with the pitch close to the coast and with very little grass, the families watching nearby, there is even a man selling peanuts.
How important is football to Uruguayan children and their families?
I think every child in Uruguay has dreamed about being a professional footballer! Football is very important to children and their families, but there are different expectations - some families see football as a way out of poverty, others just as a game and for their children to socialise. It's hard to see families put pressure on their children to be professionals, because less than 0.2% of the children who play "baby futbol" will play at a professional level. Also playing at a professional level in Uruguay is no guarantee that you will lift your family out of poverty.
Why is football historically so important for Uruguayans?
Football has been important historically because Uruguayan teams have won championships and recognition internationally, despite being such a tiny country. Uruguay has only 3 million people. But Uruguay is the country with the most Copa America titles – 15. Second is Argentina with 14, Brazil has only 8. Therefore historically football is one time when Uruguay has some relevance internationally. Uruguayans see a small selection of players from a tiny country playing at the same level as players from a country as big as Brazil, Argentina, USA, Spain or Germany.