By: B. Sapoznik
It is impossible to talk about football history without mentioning Brazil. Over the past decades, Brazil has become the most infamous, talented, and surprising country to dominate the beautiful game. Whether it was our clubs, talents, performances, or tricks, the South American nation has already carved its name eternally in football history. Several legends with a Brazilian origin have come and gone through the ages such as Pele, Garrincha, Romario, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Kaka, Zico, Didi, Rivellino, Roberto Carlos, Cafu, Socrates, Jairzinho, and many others. Nowadays, Brazilians still thrive in competitive tournaments all around the world. Whether you’re in the tip of Russia, the center of Paris, or the magical Maracanã (RJ, Brazil); Brazilians have always blessed and left a mark on the region's football history.
It still isn’t a concrete date, but football in Brazil started around the early 1900s when the first football clubs originated. In several states of Brazil, football teams were founded as companies or groups of friends who just played the game for fun, in amateur tournaments. Then, football clubs started to rise, and the Brazilian National Team was officially founded in 1914. The ‘Seleçāo’ was included in CONMEBOL (South American Football Federation) as a member in 1916 and joined FIFA in 1923. In 1930, FIFA announced the first-ever World Cup, a tournament where National teams from all around the world played football against each other to find out the best footballing nation. In 1930, Uruguay won; then Italy in 1934; and Italy again in 1938. This was followed by Uruguay and Germany as champions. Throughout these years, football started to develop, clubs were founded, academies were built, and the sport soon became very popular.
Clubs started to develop tournaments between cities, states, countries, and continents. Athletes worked full-time on a tighter schedule, and tournaments got more competitive all around the world with more world-class talents entering the big stage. Stadiums were then built to fit all of the supporters and facilities needed for the game atmosphere. Then, Brazil’s largest stadium (Jornalista Mario Filho – Maracanã) was built in 1948. At this point, sporting brands and companies developed better uniforms, cleats, gloves and balls for the players. In 1958, Brazil participated in the World Cup and secured their first global trophy for the ‘Seleção’. The winning squad featured players such as Pele, Garrincha, Didi, Zagallo, Nilton Santos, and others. These players were known as the founding fathers of the Brazilian flare for football.
In the next edition (1962), Brazil was successful once again. The ‘back-to-back’ national team was composed of mainly the same players and brought the second World Cup title to Brazil. At this point in history, Brazil was already forming its key attachments to the sport. Now, Brazilian football tournaments were common, and players pushed themselves to their highest standards to stick out in tournaments. The overall footballing industry grew in Brazil, and tournaments were taken more seriously; more fans were attracted to the stadium seats, more jerseys were made; modernization of sporting products, and more young children could watch their team play to inspire them to adoring the beautiful game.
Brazil won the World Cup once again in Mexico – in 1970 (Pele’s last World Cup) with a squad featuring Carlos Alberto, Jairzinho, Pele, and Rivellino. The fourth title came in 1994 (USA) featuring Bebeto, Romario, Dunga, Taffarel, and Cafu. Finally, the fifth win was in 2002, featuring players such as Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Kaka, Roberto Carlos, Rivaldo, Lucio, and Cafu. This was the last title of the Brazilian National team. They are the only ones to ever reach this historical milestone and are still looking for their 6th title. In the 2020s, the ‘Seleçāo’ has athletes such as Vinicius Jr., Neymar Jr., Thiago Silva, Casemiro, Gabriel Martinelli, and others who are still trying to put their hands on the golden trophy.
Although, the Brazilian World Cup path isn’t as glamorous as it seems. Brazil conquered 2nd place in 1950 and 1998, with bronze medal placements in 1938 and 1978. The National team has also been extremely fortunate in being the only country always qualifying for the World Cup.
Since the late 20th century football has grown exponentially to be an influential sport. The Brazilian nation has grown its culture around football… and I’m not talking about only national teams. People from the favelas, big cities, beaches, or forests have been influenced and usually become attached to the sport from a young age. Rough terrain conditions of practice have led younger generations to specialize in football, and it's extremely common for Brazilian teams to export players due to their world-class skills. In the modern era, Major European leagues (such as the Big 5); The Brazilian Serie A, and other clubs are usually filled with Brazilian players, who have inherited the Brazilian football roots and slowly altered football history.
Now, clubs have rigid schedules to fit in all tournaments. There are thousands of cups, leagues, championships, and tournaments throughout each country. Sports companies have come to make contracts with clubs for sponsoring, producing, providing, and enhancing the performance of the club's athletes. Nowadays, clubs sign players for millions (sometimes billions) to play in their team. With this expansion, football has turned its side to money. Prize pools for competition may come to thousands or millions and salaries sometimes reach hundreds of thousands a week. We see betting agencies involving players in corruption schemes and FIFA, the organization, bleeding from its deep wound of deceit. The world has lost its sense of boundaries because when money gets involved with sports, the beautiful game fades away from our grasp. Even as the rules remain the same, the referees who judge them have been blinded by money. Brazil was gifted with football, but football couldn’t continue with the Brazilian spirit.