Sport in Paraguay
Sport in Paraguay is an important part of Paraguayan national culture. Football is the most popular sport, while other sports such as rugby union, volleyball, basketball, and tennis all have significant popularity. Chess, futsal, golf, motorsport, and rowing are also noteworthy Paraguayan sports and pastimes.
Soccer is by far the most popular sport in Paraguay to the point that it is part of the nation's culture. Soccer was first introduced in Paraguay by Dutchman William Paats, who moved from the Netherlands to Asunción in 1888. In 1900, small tournaments were held at the Plaza de Armas, a plaza located in downtown Asunción. By 1906 the number of football clubs in Paraguay had increased and the Paraguayan Football Association, the governing body of soccer in Paraguay, was founded. The Paraguayan Soccer Association joined CONMEBOL in 1921, and FIFA in 1925. Football has grown enormously since then, and there are over 1600 teams spread throughout Paraguay participating in multiple leagues. Each of those teams try to make their way to the first division by clearing the different levels of lower divisions. The growth and evolution of Paraguayan soccer can be seen in the achievements made in the club level and by the Paraguay national football team. The national team has participated in eight World Cups, won two Copa América tournaments, and obtained a silver medal at the Olympic Games in 2004. All these accomplishments established Paraguay as the fourth most successful football nation in South America behind Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. At the club level, Olimpia Asunción has won a total of eight international tournaments, including three Copa Libertadores and one Intercontinental Cup. Among the most important and successful football players in Paraguayan history are Arsenio Erico, Aurelio González, Julio César Romero and José Luis Chilavert.
Rugby union is another popular sport in Paraguay. With 4,355 registered players and nineteen clubs, the country currently ranks 38th worldwide and 5th in South America. The sport's governing body, the Paraguayan Rugby Union (Union de Rugby del Paraguay), was founded in 1970 and joined the IRFB in 1989. South American rugby has historically been dominated by Argentina, and to a lesser extent Uruguay (both of which have qualified for the Rugby World Cup), but the sport can be found in almost all nations in South America, including Paraguay. This is partly due to massive immigration from Europe, notably the British Isles, France, and Italy. It is difficult to single out one of these nations as being primarily responsible for the birth of Paraguayan rugby, as illustrated by Asuncion Rugby Club, which was formed by two Britons, two Argentines, a Dutchman, and a New Zealander.
The first Paraguayan rugby player of note was Nelson Ayala, who played with the English club Saracens F.C. in the 1950s, and also played a prominent part in developing the game in his home country. In 1970, a second club was set up in Asuncion, the Club Universitario de Asunción (CURDA), which has since toured South Africa, Great Britain and New Zealand.
Traditionally the stronghold of Paraguayan rugby has been Asuncion. However Since 2000 a number of Asuncion clubs have folded, combined, or struggled to field teams in both Primera (first grade) and Intermedia (reserve grade).
In 2013 the teams in Primera were CURDA, San Jose, Old King Club, Luque, Cristo Rey, Universidad Autonoma de Asuncion, and Santa Clara.
Las Leones de Encarnacion, from the south of the country, competed in Primera until 2009 when they switched to compete in the URNE championship of Northern Argentina. Encarnacion is a riverside city opposite the Argentinian city of Posadas. Las Leones often fielded a strong team in Primera, but they are closer to the Posadas, Corrientes and Resistencia, than to Asuncion (a 5 hour bus trip). While strong at home they often struggled to field a competitive team when traveling to Asuncion every second week for Primera. They have since managed to win the URNE championship.
Since 2010 there has been strong growth in both women´s rugby and rugby outside of and in the outskirts of Asuncion. Traditionally teams such as Ciudad del Este and Coronel Oviedo played only occasionally, or fielded 1 team in Intermedia or Primera where they often struggled. In 2010 a separate "Campeonato del Interior" was established, in which developing clubs from the countryside played. Teams include Santani, Coronel Oviedo, Villarica, Ciudad del Este and Presidente Franco.
All Primera teams are now obliged to field a women's team. The women play 7-a-side rugby with mini 7 a side championships held every couple of weeks.
From 2013 a separate Campeonato Metropolitano (Metropolitan Championship) was also established, for new developing teams from Asuncion which could not yet compete in Primera. Teams include San Lorenzo, Capiata, Asuncion, and Sajonia.
Volleyball is also a noteworthy sport in Paraguay. The men's national team won a silver medal in the South American Volleyball Championship in 1958, and two bronze medals, in 1956 and 1979. The women's national team won a silver medal at the 1964 South American Volleyball Championship, and a bronze medal in the 1967 edition.
Basketball in Paraguay dates back to 1936, when no governing body existed, and the sport was governed by the Paraguayan Sports Association. The Paraguayan Basketball Federation (PBF, Confederación Paraguaya de Basket) was formed as the governing body in 1947, the same year it joined the International Basketball Federation (FIBA). The PBF organizes both the National League (for teams outside of Asunción) and the Metropolitan League (for teams from Asunción), and runs the Paraguay national basketball team. The best achievements by the national team were their two second-place finishes in the South American Basketball Championship in 1955 and 1960.
Tennis is also a significant sport in Paraguay. The Paraguay Davis Cup team competed in its first Davis Cup in 1931, and their best result was reaching the quarterfinals in 1983-85 and again in 1987. The Paraguay Fed Cup team competed in its first Fed Cup in 1991, and their best result was qualifying for the World Group Play-offs in 1995. Notable tennis players from Paraguay include Victor Caballero, Hugo Chapacú, Ramón Delgado, Francisco González, Víctor Pecci, and Rossana de los Ríos.
- Cien Años de Historia: Sudor, Lagrimas, Sangre, y Victoria
- UFI Website
- Historia de la Albirroja
- IRB retrieved 8 July 2009
- Bath, p72
- Thau, p52
- Volleyball: Men: South American Championships
- Volleyball: Women: South American Championships
- Bath, Richard (ed.) The Complete Book of Rugby (Seven Oaks Ltd, 1997 ISBN 1-86200-013-1)
- Thau, Chris The South American Scene in Starmer-Smith, Nigel & Robertson, Ian (eds) The Whitbread Rugby World '89 (Lennard Books, 1988 ISBN 1-85291-038-0)