The picture postcard of snowy landscapes and snowmen may define a northern hemisphere view of the Christmas idyll, but for those in the tropics and the southern hemisphere, Christmas has always been a very different experience.
In South America it heralds long balmy days and short nights and is a period where football traditionally shuts up shop for a summer recess as the population at large heads off to the coast and the beach.
For a taste of Christmas past in sunnier climes we turn the clocks back to 1920s South America where, as the league seasons drew to a close, fans could also look forward to the annual staging of the South American Championship. In 1925, Argentina was set to host the tournament and the football association decided to delay the staging until the league season had concluded. That threw up a curiosity which had not been seen before, or since… the final match of a major national team tournament played on Christmas Day.
Plans were thrown into chaos before the tournament kicked off when Olympic champions Uruguay withdrew. Since 1922 the traditional powers Nacional and Peñarol competed in different leagues. Neither had managed to organise a championship in 1925, an opportunity seized upon by Nacional to embark on a major tour abroad. Chile also pulled out before the start, blaming poor showings at previous tournaments leaving just three nations – the hosts Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil.
Due to the lack of numbers, it was decided to play a double round-robin tournament with the Argentina – Brazil game scheduled as the final match to be staged on Christmas Day. The prediction was that this would be the deciding game, and so it turned out to be. Paraguay lost all four of their games, but they did feature in their ranks Fleitas Solich, who as a coach in the 1950s would go on to have a far-reaching effect on global football. He introduced a revolutionary new tactical 4-2-4 formation which Brazil then copied, leading to their triumph at the 1958 World Cup.