When one thinks about South American football, Brazil and Argentina come immediately to mind – the titles, the magnificent players, the local leagues that attract worldwide attention. Uruguay usually is an afterthought, even though it is one of the most decorated national teams in the history of the game, a two-time world cup holder (including the first ever tournament in 1930), a 15-times Copa America winner (the most by any national team) and a two-time Olympic gold medalist.
Uruguay's populations stand at around 3.5 million. Compared with Brazil's over 3 million registered football players, it is a great wonder how can the country produced so many fine players and win so many trophies. In addition, most of Uruguay's top players move away from the country at an early age, leaving the local first division teams getting little, if any, international attention.
The teams play mostly in, or around, the capital, with 11 of the 16 teams from Montevideo (population 1.3 million). Other than a few notable ones, average stadiums capacity is around only 10,000 seats, meaning no serious money is pouring in as game-day revenue. So how do Uruguayan football continually produce such high-quality players?
It may be that the clubs represent neighborhoods in the capital and the area surrounding it, and their youth academies are simply superb. An example can be taken from the club of Danubio, who's shirts stat the club is "the university of Uruguayan football". Danubio, by the way, is the club that raised, among others, Edinson Cavani (Paris St. German), Jose Maria Gimenez (Atletico Madrid) and Christhian Stuani (Middelsborough). Then there is the opposite example, of the two big boys – Nacional and Penarol – playing for the Clasico of Uruguay in a super-heated atmosphere.
Or, it may be that Uruguay football is played with so much passion, commitment and energy, it's hard to explain.
Or maybe it's not so difficult. Take, for instance, Luis Suarez, arguably the best Uruguayan footballer of his generation, and the national team leading scorer with 49 goals and counting. In addition to his on-field heroics, Suarez is well known, and disliked, for his on-field non-football related actions, such as biting, that have earned him several suspensions. But then there was the quarterfinals match against Ghana in the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, where, deep in extra time and the score tied, Suarez saved a goal with his hand, got sent off, stopped on the way to the tunnel to watch Ghana miss the penalty kick and to celebrate Uruguay's win on penalty kicks and advance to the semi-final, a game he of course missed. After the game, Suarez said he would do it all over again, just to help the team win. Now, that's passion. Needless to say, Suarez has shown his street-smarts, never back down approach, and mostly his superb ability to score goals, first for Nacional and then for Ajax Amsterdam, Liverpool and later for Barcelona.
The Uruguay national team play its home games in the 60,235 seat Estadio Centenario in Montevideo.
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