Meet Argentinian Football Muralist Martin Gordopelota at the Toffee Club
Martin Gordopelota is currently painting a mural at the Toffee Club in Portland, Oregon. We invite all football fans to the Toffee Club on Thursday, August 30th to watch a Boca Juniors match with Martin and then chat with the artist throughout the evening as he finishes the mural. Details are below.
by Peter Erdahl
At the southern-most point of South America sits Argentina, a nation synonymous with the beautiful game - football. For Argentinians, football means everything and its influence is everywhere. With such an illustrious history in the sport, it’s easy to see why the murals of the most vibrant cities in Argentina would have a football theme. Luckily for us, Argentinian muralist Martin Gordopelota is in town this week to paint a mural on the Toffee Club wall.
A Journey Through Argentina
Whether walking through the streets of the Nuñez neighborhood in Buenos Aires on your way to the Estadio Monumental, or amongst the colorful buildings in La Boca next to La Bombonera, you can taste the football in the air. As you make your way around the city, you see colorful murals in tribute to local and national Argentinian footballing heroes. Drawings of El Pibe De Oro (the golden boy), Diego Maradona and La Pulga (the flea) and Lionel Messi, adorn sidewalks, underpasses, and sides of buildings, immortalizing their accomplishments for both their clubs and country.
To outsiders, these players and clubs are synonymous with Argentina, however, these glamorous idols and multinational clubs only represent a part of Argentinian football culture. Painter and muralist Martín Gordopelota prefers the gritty, asado (BBQs) and Quilmes filled culture of amateur 5-a-side football in Argentina.
I had the opportunity to connect with Martín to find out more about his work and his take on the cultural and societal customs of Argentinian football ahead of his visit to the Toffee Club to paint his latest mural.
Q: Much of your work revolves around the societal and cultural “rituals” of five-a-side football in Argentina - is there one aspect of amateur football that you feel most drawn to?:
Martin: The thing that attracts me most is the idea of how all these social cultural rituals work together as a criticism of industrialized football. In the era of 200M dollar transfers and 600M dollar release clauses, maybe we should pay a little more attention to the small-sided pitch that costs just 100 pesos per person.
Q: For those who love football but haven’t had the opportunity to travel to Argentina to experience the cultural significance of the sport firsthand, how would you describe what football means to Argentinians?
Martin: In Argentina the importance of football was constructed as a matter of national identity. There is a great book about this by sociologist Pablo Alabarces entitled, Fútbol y Patria. There he reviews how in a post-European-war context, Argentina was a country of abundance, of the industrial working class, and the educated middle class. But in the mid-60’s, all of this began to deteriorate due to the end of the industrial project, the emergence of Brazil as a regional power and the dictatorship.
Faced with these circumstances that generate identity crises, football functions as an adhesive, it’s easy and televised, and helps to reinforce the notion of local identity – my club, my neighborhood – and national identity: the only thing that unites each Argentinian is supporting the national team.
Q: With the stigma that the women’s game faces not only in South America, but globally, I find it interesting that in multiple pieces, the focal point of your images highlight a female or female footballers. Can you elaborate on the cultural significance of women’s football in your art, and more broadly, the role the sport has for females throughout the country?
Martin: Football is a traditionally sexist space, something that reflects the machismo that prevails in all social spheres. In Argentina, much like many other countries around the world, we are experiencing a spectacular feminist awakening, which begins to make men question our privileges. I think the attention paid to some of my paintings has to do with that. More and more I see girls playing football, or co-ed; something that was previously unthinkable. I think that in these small steps feminism is gaining ground, and I have learned (thanks to the women around me) that it is very necessary for that to happen.
Martin’s work serves as a critique of the industrialized football complex, one in which deep pockets and backroom dealings detract from what makes the game beautiful and accessible to all. The individuals depicted in Martin’s work are each unique, providing a window into the sport's cultural and societal importance. From sweaty, beer-bellied warmups, post-game asados and Quilmes, to jersey culture and fandom, Martin’s work captures it all. He gives outsiders access to the grassroots Argentinian football culture that we don’t see on the world stage, yet his work resonates on a fundamental level with lovers of football around the globe.
Join us for an Evening with Martin Gordopelota on August 30, 2018 at the Toffee Club.
Martin will watch a Boca Jrs. football match with fellow Argentina fans (all fans are welcome) at 3:30 PM and then starting at 5:30 answer questions and chat with guests about his Toffee Club mural and his work around the world. At 7:00 PM, you can watch Martin complete the final touches on his mural and get pictures with the artist. His prints will also be available for sale.
- Peter Erdahl is a writer and photographer who highlights football throughout Latin America. Peter is a native of Lima, Perú currently based out of Soccer City, USA. (Portland, Oregon). Peter will be at the event on Thursday to talk with fellow writers and photographers who love the intersection of art and the beautiful game. Peter wrote our feature on Red Card Author Ken Bensinger.