Argentina's national game is fútbol (soccer), which was introduced in the 1860s by British soldiers. The Argentinian national team has become one of the best in the world and won World Cup titles in 1978 and 1986. In the streets, you may hear "Boca or River?" on the day of a fútbol game between the Boca Juniors and the River Plate team. Some Porteños ask this to strangers because they assume everybody is interested in fútbol.

 Since an Argentinian team won the first Olympic gold medal in polo in 1924, Argentinians have dominated the sport. Polo is played by teams of four on horseback. Players use long wooden mallets to hit a wooden ball the size of a tennis ball towards a goal at the end of the field. Polo ponies are small thoroughbreds that are specially trained for the sport. Both Argentinian ponies and Argentinian polo players are sought by polo teams in other countries. The polo player Gonzalo Pieres is one of the best in the world.

Pato is a special Argentinian sport, first played by the Gauchos. Pato means "duck." Pato was originally played by two teams on horseback using a duck in a leather pouch with handles. Two players would grab the handles and pull until one let go. The winning team would ride away, while the opposing team tried to stop them and grab the pato. The sport became dangerous and it was banned in 1882. In the late 1930s, the sport was revived with new rules. Now two teams of four men on horseback attempt to throw the modern pato, a leather ball with six handles, into one of two baskets at either end of a large field.

 Did you know? 
Argentinian Juan Manuel Fangio is the only person in the world to win the Formula 1 Grand Prix automobile race five times: in 1951 and 1954 - 1957.


Horse racing is another popular spectator sport. Races are held throughout the year. The two most important events are the Argentine Republic Prize, held in April, and the Grand National in November.

 Tennis was once a sport reserved for the wealthy until the Argentinian Guillermo Vilas did well in international competitions. Now it is played by young people throughout the country. Gabriela Sabatini was ranked as one of the top women tennis players during her teenage years.

 Families often go to the Atlantic coast in summer. Mar del Plata, southeast of Buenos Aires, is a popular destination for summer holidays. In winter, many Argentinians enjoy Andinismo, which means hiking, mountain-climbing or alpine or cross-country skiing in the Andes Mountains.