Latin American Children and Sports Activities

The healthy development of children is premised on both mental and physical education. In the Pan-Latin American Kids Study, we asked children in which sports activities they like to play. The following chart shows the percent for the top 5 sports activities among children between the ages of 7 and 11 in the 19 surveyed countries in 1996.

The attractions of soccer for Latin Americans are manifold. First of all, this is a sport in which they have historically excelled in the world, with world championships being won by Argentina and Brazil in recent years. In the soccer-mad countries, stars such as Ronaldinho, Roberto Carlos, Romario, Marco Etcheverry, Jorge Campos, Luis Hernandez, etc. are idolized and emulated by fans, young and old.

At the grassroots level, soccer is popular because the sport can be played virtually anywhere with any equipment. Soccer does not have to be played only with a regulation leatherskin ball, but it can be played with any object --- leather, plastic, rubber, paper, and whatever the imagination can lead to. Soccer can be played alone or with others. The regulation game is played with eleven people per side. A popular variant known as indoor, which is invariably played outdoors, has six players per side. Pickup games can have any number of people and even dogs. Soccer does not have to played on a regulation grass field, but it can be played on asphalt surfaces, concrete surfaces, dirt surfaces, sidewalks and ... yes, even on basketball courts:-

Picture of three children in Lima, Peru
playing soccer on a concrete basketball court

(photo credit: Deborah Levy)

(posted by Roland Soong on 11/10/97)

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