Argentine soccer players Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi have been subject to similar
cultural phenomena, from national identity politics to Catholic imagery, despite wildly
contrasting personal contexts. Their subjection to the tropes in question is not an overwhelming
natural outpouring of the sport, the country, or the players themselves, but a function of cultural
expression anchored in Argentine social values. This thesis undertakes a comparative study of
the two players as secular icons in order to discern those values.
Foremost among these values is the ever more tightly grasped moral economy that
informs Argentines’ relationships with soccer. The priority placed on local, collective prosperity
over individual success has manifested itself as a communal resistance to soccer as one of many
cultural products seen as under siege by neoliberalism and globalization. Yet another value is the
definition of citizenship as participation in institutions that provide mechanisms for social change
or resistance, which has only included soccer when left with no other options in civil society.
Finally, ritual accessibility in Christian and secular contexts alike is an increasingly prioritized
value that expresses itself in reaction to established forms of religiosity across class lines.
My undergraduate thesis has been published at Esferas, our department journal. If you would like to read it in full, you can download it from Esferas here!