21 June 2014 | News Comments

Column: Brazil's football heritage

By Glenn Mason in Sao Paulo

Socrates the footballer once wrote that Brazilians were a people who “make good use of our natural wonders with the naturalness of the carefree … and a people who love football”.

With three major and successful teams in the city, it comes as no surprise then that Sao Paulo has a football museum. I decided to pay a visit on an idle afternoon after some other plans fell through.

Situated beneath the famous Pacaembu Stadium, the Museo do Futebol is devoted to the game in Brazil as a whole and not just the big three of Corinthians, Sao Paulo and Palmeiras.

The museum traces the game’s early days in the country, from Charles Miller and his two footballs, through to the present day.

It highlights the growth of the game among mulattoes and Mestizos in the early 20th century and how it has become an obsession for millions.

Anyone who has read Alex Bellos’s excellent Futebol - The Brazilian way of Life will know the passion that football invokes in this vast and culturally diverse country.

Moustachioed Miller arrived in the port of Santos, southwest of Sao Paulo, with two footballs in 1894 and the game grew from there.

Initially the preserve of the white elite, it eventually reached the working classes, with Rio de Janeiro sides Bangu and Vasco da Gama among the first teams to play black players.

This is all detailed in the Origins section of the museum, along with the interesting role played by radio in developing the game amongst a largely illiterate population.

There is the inevitable section on the pain and despair of the 1950 World Cup defeat to Uruguay, before you move to the main World Cup section.

Eight totems of images and video allow visitors to relive past World Cups and the other news events that occurred in those years. It was a popular section judging by those lingering to view the images and watch the videos.

Numbers and Curiosities deals with some of the idiosyncrasies of football in Brazil, such as the numerous words for the same thing. There are also graphics of the hairstyles worn by its famous stars and Jairzinho’s classy afro is there in all its 1970s glory.

Brazilian players have a certain allure about them. Even the not so great ones are remembered in folklore, such as Pedro de Lima, who spent time shivering on the wing for Drogheda United in the 1970s.

Fortunately, there are plenty of legends on show here, including a tribute to Pele and Garrincha, who are held in equal esteem by many Brazilian football aficionados.

The two greats are among the museum’s Baroque Angels or 25 players who have “re-invented the Brazilian art of playing football” and who “float on air”.

The full list is: Bebeto, Carlos Alberto, Didi, Djalma Santos, Falcao, Garrincha, Gerson, Gilmar, Jairzinho, Julinho Botelho, Nilton Santos, Pele, Rivaldo, Rivellino, Roberto Carlos, Romario, Ranaldinho, Ronaldo, Socrates, Taffarel, Tostao, Vava, Zagallo, Zico and Zizinho.

You need a decent first touch to get on that list, including the goalkeepers. It’s strange to think there is no place for World Cup winning captains Bellini, Dunga and Cafu.

On the way in to the exhibition there is an introductory video of Pele telling visitors they well “love it”. It’s typical exaggeration from Pele, but it was a fascinating way to spend an hour and a bit.