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The Birth of Football in Brazil

July 14, 2014
Charles Miller. Moustached father of Brazilian football.

Charles Miller. Moustached father of Brazilian football.


The 2014 World Cup has come to a close.

It’s useful, if not necessarily therapeutic, to remember the very beginning of a tale when things come to an end.

The combined scores of Brazil’s defeats against the World Champions Germany and the Netherlands display absurdly shocking results: 10 x 1 for the visitors.

Brazil have now entered a new footballing category in World Cup history, that of teams that allow staggering amounts of goals into their net. In the Selecao‘s company are now the likes of North Korea and Saudi Arabia. Indeed, this is a national disaster for the 5-time World Champions.

Truthfully, Brazil haven’t played stylish Jogo Bonito, or “futebol arte” as we call it, since 1982. Since then we have seen flashes of it here and there, great victories, some defeats, and slightly mediocre Brazil teams that – albeit not made up of ‘artists’ – certainly never managed to taint the legacy of the nation as the spiritual home of the game – as the nostalgically golden standard for beautiful football.

Brazil may not have been utterly brilliant in the last two decades, but they still won tournaments and, more importantly, weren’t as bad as North Korea! Ever!

That image, unfortunately, has now been torn to tatters. Brazil’s football has been conquered, and its future demands a revolution; a profound self-examination.

The brilliantly victorious German reform, which started in 1998 following a dreadful 3-0 defeat against new-kids-on-the-block Croatia, and culminated with their 4th World Cup title at Rio’s Maracana this Sunday, serves as as a powerful and inspirational lesson.

Germany invested in their youth academies, heavily; they reformed their entire approach to football management and administration within the last 15 years. They’ve embraced their multiculturalism and, through it, developed an incredibly strong sense of team-work and classy sportsmanship. They worked at it, diligently and patiently.

Germany are now the standard for modernity and efficient beauty.

Brazilian football must enter the 21st Century too. We must evolve.

But first, a brief pause for nostalgia. Let’s go back in time, all the way to October, 1894. The very birth of football in Brazil.

Let us remember those first steps…

Charles Miller, the son of an Anglo-Brazilian mother and a Scottish immigrant, returns to Brazil after attending boarding school in Southampton, England.

His father awaits his arrival at the port city of Santos, in the State of Sao Paulo. Miller recounts:

On the quay…solemn, as if he were at a funeral, my father was waiting for me to disembark holding my degree certificate. But in fact I appeared in front of him with two footballs, one in each hand … the old man, surprised, enquired:

“What is this Charles?’
‘My degree’, I replied.
‘Yes! Your son has graduated in football …”.
The old man, in good spirits, laughed. I was off the hook ….


Additionally, in his back-pack, Miller brought with him a copy of the Laws of the Game.

A few months later the book of rules had gone viral, fiercely spreading all across Brazil; footballs were made and sold at an increasingly frenetic pace, and hundreds of teams were formed.

Charles Miller changed the cultural landscape of Brazil forever, assisting in the development of the nation’s very sense of identity and pride, and thus establishing football as a pivotal element of Brazil’s heritage.

Thus, football was born in Brazil 120 years ago. It has come a long way, and now, more than ever, it needs help.

Brazil once again needs persistent visionaries like Charles Miller.

The World Cup this year was a success, and Brazilians proved to be gracious, warm hosts. But our football needs mending.

We may be on the quay right now, solemn, as if we were at the funeral that followed the 7-1 thrashing against the Germans…

Let us work so that the next 120 years of Brazilian football never reproduce this kind of pain and void. Let us learn from the Germans.

We owe it to Miller. The man changed a country with just two footballs and a book.

Surely, we have better resources at our disposal today.

Let us use them.



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