Ask any Latin American and they’ll tell you one of the things that define their continent and their own national identities is a burning passion for the competitive spirit of sport. These days the continent’s many historic rivalries are expressed through a healthy sporting spirit in sports such as football, tennis and volleyball. Here are some of the best sporting events worth visiting as part of a tour to South America.
The Best of the Beautiful Game: Copa de Libertadores
Soccer and Latin America are virtually synonymous. The beautiful game is revered everywhere from the buzzing streets of the continent’s cities to the most remote outposts in the distant wilderness. And of all the soccer tournaments in South America, it is the Copa de Libertadores that draws the most attention and passion. The competition sees old tensions such as those between Brazil and Argentina or Peru and Chile turned into a healthy sporting rivalry.
The tournament’s 38 teams are drawn from the top-ranking teams from national competitions, who play a number of preliminary rounds before entering a group stage and then the finals. By the time the final stages begin, virtually everyone in South America has focused their attention on the competition.
The atmosphere of a major South American soccer match is a unique experience and you don’t get much bigger than the finals of the Copa de Libertadores!
A Touch of Class: The Argentine Polo Open Championship
For those seeking a less raucous, more elegant spectator sport, look no further than the great polo traditions of Argentina. Polo is an old passion for Anglophile Argentines, and the sport attracts some of the best players and finest horses in the world.
Aiming High: The South America Volleyball Championship
Volleyball is one of the few sports in Latin America that is widely popular among female competitors and spectators. The pinnacle of the game’s annual calendar is the South American Volleyball Championship, held biannually since 1951 at alternate locations usually in Peru, Colombia, Brazil and Argentina.
The sport is taken very seriously and demands extreme levels of fitness, agility, coordination and teamwork. Brazil, where the sport has become a passion second only to football, has been the traditional leading country, with occasional challenges from Argentina, Peru and Venezuela.
Hole in One: Tour De Las Americas
Ironically, it is the ancient sport of golf that is the youngest addition to Latin America’s professional sports scene, having only been established as a permanent international tour in 1999. The Tour de las Americas (TLA) provides an opportunity for the best national players from Latin America and the Caribbean to compete at an international level and has rapidly developed into a major sporting occasion, involving over 30 events in almost 20 countries and a total prize money of over $3 million. The rise of golf on the continent has also contributed to a growth in dedicated golf courses, especially in some of the more luxurious Costa Rica hotels.