Nicknames: La Celeste, Charrúa
US Sports team equivalent: pre-NFL merger Cleveland Browns
Player to Watch: This team has electrifying scorers playing at top clubs in Europe, but it’s progress will likely be determined by how Diego Lugano (of Fenerbache) captains the defense.
Artist to Watch: No Te Va a Gustar
I’ve been known to use the following analogy when describing residents of the small South American nation of Uruguay. This is it: Uruguay is to Argentina like what Canada is to the US. Much smaller population, pretty much identically culturally, less relevant compared with the neighboring behemoth and sharing the insecurity that comes with grappling with an innate geopolitical inferiority complex. Before I began with this profile piece on the South Africa-bound Uruguayan national team, I realized how off target my analogy was.
Uruguay is much too scrappy a country to be grouped with Earth’s most pleasant people, Canadians. Uruguayans, and by extension Uruguay’s national team, believe in the fervent spirit of the rally cry “garra charrúa” – or “Charrúan clawing”. Charrúas were an indigenous tribe living in the land that is now Uruguay. Nomadic and notoriously murderous, infamously doing in a Spanish explorer while he was, exploring, to use generally accepted vernacular for otherwise genocidal European conquistadors.
The standard mythology of Charrúa tenacity becomes especially prevalent on the competitive pitch. Like abilities humanized through mascots, be it a territorial bear or a crafty beaver, Uruguay’s players are often referred colloquially as Charrúas, clothed with the mantle of exalted lore. However, while nationalistic pride is one thing, no actual full-bloodied Charrúas are thought to exist as sadly, all signs point to an extinct people. Literally killed off. Minor digression aside, the unbelievable expectations from a nation dreaming of winning is rooted not only in legendary resolve, but in expectations indoctrinated into every citizen by past achievements. To be fair, the achievements were grand. As grand as hoisting the World Cup trophy. Uruguay did it twice.