Sport in Argentina
Though it is perhaps best known for its footballers, the range of sports played in Argentina is almost as diverse as the country’s ethnic heritage. The national sport of Argentina is Pato, a game played on horseback that combines elements of polo and basketball. Early versions of the game were played with a live duck, over large areas between neighbouring estancias; the first team to reach their own ranch house with the duck being declared the winner. Nowadays, however, the game is played with a special type of ball which teams must throw through a vertically positioned ring to score.
Buenos Aires has the highest concentration of football teams of any city in the world, and Argentina has long been known for its football stars – the most well-known being Diego Maradonna, whose infamous ‘hand of god’ defeated England in the 1986 World Cup. Though Argentina has not since won the World Cup, they remain a force to be reckoned with, and domestic clubs such as Boca Juniors and River Plate are popular not only in Argentina, but also internationally.
Introduced by the British, rugby has been in Argentina since 1873 but has for a long time remained a largely amateur sport. Since the 1960s, however, the popularity of rugby in Argentina has been growing to such an extent that it is now considered one of the International Rugby Board (IRB) tier one nations. As of 2012, the Tri-Nations rugby tournament is expected to become the Four Nations Rugby Tournament, and Argentina will join South Africa, Australia and New Zealand in this annual contest between the Southern Hemisphere’s greatest rugby teams.
The Union de Rugby de Buenos Aires was formed in 1899 by four clubs, three from Buenos Aires: Lomas, Belgrano and Buenos Aires FC, and Club Atlético from Rosario. Since then, the union has grown considerably, and 84 member teams in 4 divisions compete annually in the Torneo de la URBA.
Though club rugby in Argentina is dominated by teams from Buenos Aires, the sport has rapidly been gaining popularity in other parts of Argentina and there is a rugby union in each part of the country. Every year, the best teams from these rugby unions compete in the Torneo del Interior, a national rugby tournament for teams outside the Buenos Aires area. From there, the two finalists of the tournament compete with the two finalists from Torneo de la URBA in a national tournament to determine the best rugby club in Argentina, known as the Nacional de Clubes.