Arts & Culture

1863 - 1931

The Game and The People 

The football origins in Brazil
Museu do Futebol/2013


At the Brazilian ports, in the late 19th century, all kinds of people arrived: young boys from wealthy families which were returning from studies in Europe; the first waves of immigrant workers; engineers and builders of the railroads that opened the interior of the country; sailors from all around the world.



What they had in common? They carried a spherical object made of rubber and leather, which  was used to be played with the feet. Together with the ball came the futebol, or rather the football. Originated from England, this sport quickly spread across the world, from port to port, from railroad to railroad, from school to school. In Brazil, it was introduced and appropriated by different social classes: from rich students to workers of the factories of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.



Charles Miller, a paulista student and an English parents’ son, has a prominent role in this history. In November 1894, he brought from England the ball and the book of rules of The Football Association. Some months later, in April 1895, he helped to organize a match between the teams of the companies São Paulo Railway and São Paulo Gaz Company, in a region of São Paulo called Várzea do Carmo.

The courtyards of the factories, the floodplains of rivers, streets, vacant lots, everything turned into football field. And this was not always like as we know it today. Wondering how were the lines and markings of a football field, from the definition of the rules in 1863 in England until 1902? Watch the video.


In the late 19th and 20th centuries, the most practiced sports in urban centers were rowing, cricket, turf, and cycling. Thus, the first clubs dedicated themselves to these practices, as the São Paulo Athletic Club, club founded in 1888, which practiced cricket. In 1894 this club formed one of the Brazilian first football teams, which was headed by Charles Miller. In 1898 the Associação Atlética Mackenzie College team appeared.



In the first decades of the 20th century, football in Brazil was an amateur practice. 

It was a practice for the rich, made for fun, to play football at the clubs. 

The atmosphere of the clubs revealed the customs of the elite and it was an event for high society to watch sports matches, whether football, tennis, cricket or any other sport.



The bleachers were full of girls and boys looking for their peers. Weddings and business were planned during sporting events. The environment was socially controlled, very different from the mass events that would take the scene in the following decades. The attire of these early fans was marked by elegance: hats, suits, dresses... and a handkerchief that had fundamental importance.

People use to say that the use in Brazil of the term torcer (to root for) to indicate loyalty to a team came from the common practice of wringing the handkerchief on the bleachers of the beginning of the last century. Either to wipe the sweat off the skin on sunny afternoons, or to cheer for the team, the handkerchief was then registered trademark of the bleachers. Along with the football played in clubs, the fan is born.



The player'S uniform also revealed that refined taste! Note the garments of goalkeeper Marcos Carneiro de Mendonça, Fluminense: short pleatedpants, satin belt, linen shirt!


The first club intended solely to football was the paulista Sport Club Internacional, founded in 1899, now extinct. Soon after, in the same year, it was founded the Sport Club Germania, which has today the name Esporte Clube Pinheiros, by the German Hans Nobiling. As the Pinheiros not practice football anymore, the Sport Club Rio Grande (RS), founded in 1900, nowadays is considered as the oldest football club in activity in Brazil. And it is also known as “grandpa”.

In the first decade of the 20th century, the organization of football leagues was rehearsing its first steps. In 1902 the first Paulista Championship was played – it was the first official championship of the country – with only five teams, all of the capital of the State of São Paulo: Associação Atlética Mackenzie College, Sport Club Germania Club, Athletico Paulistano, Sport Club Internacional and São Paulo Athletic Club, the last one led the title.

In Rio de Janeiro there was a similar process, notably with Fluminense Football Club, founded in 1902. As a result, in 1904, came the Botafogo Football Club (current Botafogo de Futebol e Regatas) and América Football Club. The first Carioca Championship, won by Fluminense, occurred in 1906.



The majority of elite clubs forbade in their associations the participation of both black people and mestizos.

But the most of these workers also practiced football in their spare time, between their shifts of factories, on streets and suburbs, and formed their own associations.


In the 1920s, football became popular and conquest the masses once and for all. In 1919, 

Brazil hosts and wins the South American Championship. The Laranjeiras Stadium, owned by Fluminense, is built for this event. 

This is the first time that a national football team arises, and that people rooted for the Brazilian nation and not only for the clubs.

With this popularization of football, it becomes increasingly difficult for clubs to maintain social barrier against both black people and mulattoes. 

The Vasco da Gama and Bangu, in Rio de Janeiro, in the 1920s already have black players on their teams.



With the proliferation of clubs and leagues, is also difficult to maintain amateurism. 

Players of humble origins saw in football a possibility of earning extra money and, as they became sought-after by the clubs, they also began to receive money to work for them. 

The suburban clubs in Rio de Janeiro, as the Vasco da Gama, put pressure for the end of amateurism. 

But the elite clubs resisted.


The first player in the country to be called “ace” was Arthur Friedenreich.

Grandson of German, mulatto, son of a teacher with an employee of the Department of Transportation and Public Works. 

Was the protagonist of the Brazilian title campaign in the South American 1919. 

Top scorer, striker received the nickname “El Tigre” of Uruguayan journalists.




The entrance of this sport on the professional level occurred in 1933, when then-President Getúlio Vargas regulates the guidelines of national sport and allows the practice of professional players.

A new era in Brazilian football started, which had already conquered the masses, established the major clubs, leagues and made his national team. 

What lay ahead is a history full of victories and achievements!

The love of football as a passionate dispute makes people forget of its transformative role. But the fact is that football has been an effective (and also emotional) bridge between the “elite” who brought it from the biggest colonial empire on the planet, the very civilized England, and the people from a Brazil that in the eighteen hundred was made of former slaves. Putting black and white people, just as elite and the poor, in the same place was it its first lessons. Football has demonstrated that skills are better than a family name or even the color of the skin. It was the first mean of communication truly universal and modern among all the other segments of the Brazilian society. It has been teaching how to aggregate and disaggregate Brazil through its multiple choices and citizenship*.

- Roberto DaMatta, Anthropologist


This exhibition is based on the “Hall of Origins” Exhibition: Present in the permanent exhibition of Football Museum - São Paulo. The Football Museum has the Curatorship by Leonel Kaz, Expography by Daniela Thomas and Felipe Tassara and Art Direction by Jair de Souza. The Football Museum, opened in 2008, is a cultural facility of the State Secretariat of Culture of the State of São Paulo. It is managed by IDBrasil - Social Organization of Culture.

Credits: Exhibit

Diretora — Clara Azevedo
Coordenadora — Daniela Alfonsi
Coordenação — Pedro Sant'Anna
Curadoria — Equipe de Conteúdo do Museu do Futebol
Textos — Daniela Alfonsi, Lucas Donato e Felipe Santos
Diagramação — Pedro Sant'Anna e Lucas Donato
de vídeo e imagem — Bruna Gottardo e Hugo Takeyama

Credits: All media
The exhibit featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.