When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

Sorry England, Guarani Natives Of Paraguay Say They Invented Soccer

Paraguay's Ministry of Culture says the real birthplace of the game the English named football, and gave rules to, was not in fact England. The Jesuits may have the proof.

The universal game in Asuncion
The universal game in Asuncion
Jiuletta Roffo

ASUNCION — Sports fans around the world have long believed that the game of soccer was born in England, where its rules were set down in 1863.

But now the government of Paraguay insists that the Guaraní, the natives from the "southern-cone" region of South America, were kicking a ball around much earlier. This was documented in the 18th century by the Jesuits working here to convert the natives to Catholicism, the religion of the alternately civilizing and genocidal European conquerors.

Paraguay's Ministry of Culture has launched a short documentary called The Guaraní Invented Football, to supposedly set the record straight. Its initiative followed the publication in the Vatican's official gazette of an observation written by 18th century Jesuits on how the Guaraní made a kind of football using wet sand wrapped in layers of a tree sap not dissimilar to rubber, which was then inflated.

The Guaraní, who inhabited territories that spanned across Paraguay, as well as parts of present-day Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Bolivia were observed kicking that durable ball around on Sundays, for example, after attending mass. The aim of their game was not, however, to score goals, but to prevent the ball from touching the ground. The side that tired first lost, and a game could last until sunset, as chroniclers observed in 1775 and 1777. Crowds of fans watched and there was reportedly some betting.

The Jesuits wrote in their "cartas anuas," the annual reports to the Pope, of the Guaraní"s dexterity with this type of football, called Mangai in the first dictionary of the Guaraní language. The name came from the tree whose sap was used to make the ball.

[rebelmouse-image 27088224 alt="""" original_size="500x331" expand=1]Guaraní of today Photo: Percursodacultura

A councillor of the Guaraní settlement in San Ignacio Guazú in Paraguay, Máximo Génez, has his suspicions of what happened. "We think the English could have had the idea for football after seeing the Guaraní taken to Spain by the Jesuits, perhaps when they were showing their game to royalty before visiting Englishmen." Génez says many in his community want San Ignacio to be known as the birthplace of football.

Ball playing in the Americas was not confined to the Guaraní of course. The Maya and the Aztecs of Mexico had their famous ball game where a ball had to be sent through a loop using knees, hips and elbows. The losers faced the prospect of being sacrificed to the gods. Something to bear in mind perhaps for football hooligans.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.


The Colonial Spirit And "Soft Racism" Of White Savior Syndrome

Tracing back to Christian colonialism, which was supposed to somehow "civilize" and save the souls of native people, White Savior Syndrome lives on in modern times: from Mother Teresa to Princess Diana and the current First Lady of Colombia, Verónica Alcocer.

photo of a child patient holding hand of an adult

Good intentions are part of the formula

Ton Koene / Vwpics/ZUMA
Sher Herrera


CARTAGENA — The White Savior Syndrome is a social practice that exploits or economically, politically, symbolically takes advantage of individuals or communities they've racialized, perceiving them as in need of being saved and thus forever indebted and grateful to the white savior.

Although this racist phenomenon has gained more visibility and sparked public debate with the rise of social media, it is actually as old as European colonization itself. It's important to remember that one of Europe's main justifications for subjugating, pillaging and enslaving African and American territories was to bring "civilization and save their souls" through "missions."

Even today, many white supremacists hold onto these ideas. In other words, they believe that we still owe them something.

This white savior phenomenon is a legacy of Christian colonialism, and among its notable figures, we can highlight Saint Peter Claver, known as "the slave of the slaves," Bartolomé de Las Casas, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Princess Diana herself, and even the First Lady of Colombia, Verónica Alcocer.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest