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When Soccer Came to Brazil

Article by Giorgio Pirelli

Brazil and Futebol are ‘hand in glove’ (pardon the pun)! But it’s the British who invented this much loved game.The history of Brazilian soccer is a disorganized one and it comes as no surprise that its origins has many a version! This British sport is said to have arrived in Brazil during the end of the nineteenth century.

One version of the advent of soccer in Brazil claims it all started with the arrival of British and Dutch sailors to the country. The locals learned the ropes of the game from these sailors on the beaches of the north eastern coastline. Another version gives credit to a certain Mr. Hugh as the ‘father of Brazilian soccer’. It seems Mr. Hugh was the first person to teach the game to the workers of the São Paulo Railway back in 1882. Yet another version prefers a Mr. John as the first coach of soccer, who taught the skills to a team of Leopoldina Railway workers sometime in 1875.

Now, if that’s not confusing, what is?! Well, there’s one more version that most people espouse as the ‘true story’. According to this popular version, Brazilian soccer owes Charles William Miller for bringing the game to the country. Born in Brazil in the year 1874, Charles left for England for his studies at the age of 10. It was there that he was first came in contact with the sport. Charlie was a natural and soon became a deft dribbler and a free kick and header specialist. An accomplished striker, he won school honors that gave him entry into Southampton Club, and later, the Hampshire County team.

On his return to Brazil in 1894, he brought with him some soccer gear, a rule book and his skill. He formed the first Brazilian football club, the Sao Paolo Athletic Club (SPAC), and even came up with a few new rules! SPAC went on to win the first three championships with Mr. Miller at the helm. His football skills were far superior than his team mates and the ‘Chaleira’ – a football move invented by him saw him flick the ball with his heel – was named in honor of him. This move is still used by the legends of Brazilian football! The greatest names of the game, Pele, Socrates and Rivelino owe a lot to this pioneer of Brazilian football…

The first official match in Brazil was played in São Paulo back in 1894. Charles Miller had invited the English football teams from Southampton and the Corinthians Club to play against SPAC and other local teams. Charles had so much respect for the Corinthians sense of fair play, he even named a local team after them! And with that, one of Brazil’s most popular club was born… It went on to become Brazilian Champion in the year 2005 and had some of the best players Brazil has seen on its roster.

In 1988, SPAC commemorated its centenary with a match against the English Corinthians! The final match had legends like Socrates and Rivelino on the local Corinthian side playing against their English counterpart. The local team was leading 1:0, when Socrates, in the spirit of Corinthian fairness, agreed to change his soccer jersey to play for the English team! Well, those were the early years of Brazil’s love affair with football. It went on to make history as five time World Cup champion and is the only country to have qualified for all 17 World Cups in the tournament’s history! Until 2002, Brazil had lost only one World Cup qualifier in 70 years of playing! With its elegant dribbling, lightening speed passes and precision scoring, Brazilian Futebol has been likened to ballet dancing, and more recently, to the rhythmic samba!

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