Soccer in Sun and Shadow


In 1995, while on a Fulbright Fellowship for Photography in Uruguay, I spent a month taking photographs of the crowds at soccer matches during the prestigious Copa América soccer tournament. For Uruguayans, there was a deep resonance to the national team’s advance through the tournament, involving, as it did, an entire nation's passions, but it was an ambiguous, conflicted sense of patriotism due to the bitter legacy of a military dictatorship. Although the dictatorship had ended in 1984, little had happened to help the nation move beyond the stark repression, violence and terror that was so widely experienced. Traumatic memories had merely been replaced by the gray tones of a rebuilding democracy with a depleted economy, slow to heal.

Tiny Uruguay marched erratically but inevitably through the tournament, on a collision course with the mighty Brazilians, who were then the reigning 1994 World Cup Champions. When the teams met one afternoon in a tension-packed final, with Uruguay ultimately triumphing on penalty kicks, it set off a moment of profound national catharsis that seemed to represent more than a game.