Tim Vickery Column: Uruguay helped Brazilian football find its own path

Scolari celebrating wouldn't have happened otherwise - Action Images
Luiz Felipe Scolari seems so at ease in the post of Brazil coach, and has made so much progress towards building a settled side, that it is easy to forget all the furore that surrounded his appointment towards the end of 2012.

Mano Menezes had been controversially sacked, and Scolari was quickly brought in as a replacement, with special haste needed to stop a fascinating rival candidate from building momentum. 

That, of course, was Pep Guardiola, who declared himself interested, leading Brazil’s sports daily ‘Lance!’ to organise a big campaign in his favour.

The prospect of a foreign coach in charge of the national team appeared to both terrify and horrify the old order. As Scolari was presented, CBF President Jose Maria Marin made an impassioned, if not always coherent, argument in favour of the need to give value to Brazilian coaches – who had, after all, presided over all five of Brazil’s World Cup wins.

 

I wonder if Marin is aware that the coach for the first of those victorious campaigns, back in 1958, was very nearly a Paraguayan.

 

Brisk, efficient and ambitious, Joao Havelange had taken charge of the CBD, forerunner of the CBF. His candidate to coach the national team was one of the legendary names of South American football of the time, Fleitas Solich. An international midfielder for Paraguay, Solich had coached in the land of his birth and in Argentina (and was later to have a season in charge of the great Real Madrid) when he landed in Rio in 1953 to become the boss of Flamengo.  He won the Rio State Championship, in those days a competition of great prestige, three times in a row. 

 

Havelange, whose power base was Rio, was impressed, and wanted to make Solich the coach of Brazil.

 

But Havelange needed to put together a coalition, especially with Sao Paulo.  And his great ally there was Paulo Machado de Carvalho, a media mogul and football director with links to Sao Paulo FC. Machado was to be the head of Brazil’s delegation in the World Cups of 1958 and 62. 

 

He listened to Havelange’s proposal, but had an alternative candidate – Vicente Feola, a coach he knew well from Sao Paulo.  Havelange gave way, and so the man who led Brazil to their first World Cup win was a squat son of Italian immigrants – but it could have been the elegant Paraguayan, and at the time, no one would have thought of this as being especially incongruous.

 

But once Brazil had started winning world titles, the idea of a foreign-born coach immediately began to look completely unrealistic – an idea to be grabbed at for the purposes of speculation when times were desperate, such as the moment when Brazil were struggling desperately to qualify for the 2002 World Cup, or when Menezes was sacked.

 

This was not the only thing that changed. It also seemed that history was rewritten. Now that it ended in so many triumphs, the story of Brazilian football was reinterpreted, told in isolation, removed from the continental context in which it had grown.

 

Because the striking thing in the early years is the extent to which the growth of the game was a collective South American phenomenon – or to be more precise, one based in the south cone, especially in the cities of Montevideo, Buenos Aires, Rio and Sao Paulo, with Asuncion and Santiago also involved.

 

Remarkably in a continent still deficient in terms of economic integration, the Copa America was held 12 times between 1916 and 29, when the Wall Street crash set off turbulent political waves and interrupted the process. These years were of massive growth in the popularity and the quality of the South American game, with Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil testing and learning from each other.

It is hardly surprising that Uruguay were the quickest out of the blocks. 

 

At the time they were not at so much of a disadvantage in terms of population size. Now when Uruguay take on Brazil it is a nation of 3 million against one of 200. Then it was Montevideo against Rio and Buenos Aires. And Uruguay’s early lead came from the fact that, quicker than the others, they were drawing on talent from all sectors of society. 

 

Football in South America started with the elite; it spread downwards quickly, but in Uruguay it was quicker than anywhere else.  The little country was full of progressive social legislation. It was the pioneer of the modern welfare state, and such ideas of social inclusion were reflected in the composition of the national team. 

 

Uruguay won the inaugural Copa America in 1916, and supplied the top goalscorer as well – Isabelino Gradin, a black striker from a poor background. It was very unlikely that someone with such a humble upbringing could have represented Brazil at the time.

 

Brazil won the trophy on home ground in 1919. But just as important as the triumph was the presence of Gradin in the Uruguayan team. Poor black Brazilians could recognise themselves in him more than they could in Brazil’s hero, Artur Friedenreich, son of a local black woman and a German immigrant, whose skin might have been dark but was from an impeccable middle class background. 

 

Gradin’s participation in the 1919 Copa is an important moment in the development of the Brazilian game. ‘If he can do it,’ thought the locals, ‘then so can we.’

 

Thirteen years later it was evident that this lesson had been well absorbed. In December 1932 Brazil went to play Uruguay, by now world and double Olympic champions, in Montevideo’s newly built Centenario stadium. Brazil won 2-1, and the best players were two young blacks from poor backgrounds, defender Domingos da Guia and centre forward Leonidas da Silva.

 

Uruguayan football had just turned professional. The Brazilian game, ridden with aristocratic amateur values, was reluctant to take the same step. So Uruguay’s big two clubs swooped. Penarol signed Leonidas and Nacional snapped up Domingos.

 

This was a significant external shock to Brazilian football, which, sensing the danger, soon accepted professionalism – definitely consolidating the position of the player from a poor background.  Without professionalism, there is no Pele.  The fact that there was Pele – the fact that today Luiz Felipe Scolari has so many fine players to choose from – is the outcome of these moments, of Brazilian football finding its own path, but in a clear South American context.

 

Latest articles

Hellas Verona goalkeeper Rafael happy hard work paid off after saving Alessandro Diamanti's penalty

Filipe Luis could leave Chelsea for Madrid return

Diego Costa returns to Chelsea training

Van der Sar praises Mourinho for Diego Costa masterstroke

Liverpool’s Lucas misses out on Wembley yet again

Report: Liverpool to rival Juventus bid for Fiorentina goalkeeper Neto

Manchester City midfielder Fernando pleased with West Ham United win and wants strong end to the season

Report: Manchester United scout Internacional midfield duo Eduardo Sasha and Rodrigo Dourado

Report: Fiorentina goalkeeper Neto happy to join Juventus as reserve to first choice Gianluigi Buffon

Paulinho impresses against Newcastle

Oscar reminds the Premier League of his talent

Ronaldinho rolls back the years for Querétaro

Brazilians in Europe: Jonas strikes again for Benfica

Paulistão: Santos defeat São Paulo to qualify for the final

Liverpool’s Lucas says camera phones mean danger for young players

Coutinho goal not enough for Liverpool to avoid FA Cup defeat

Milan Assistant Coach Mauro Tassotti explains why Alex started the Derby della Madonnina

Report: Roma consider mutual termination for defender Maicon after injury hit season

Roma Head Coach Rudi Garcia unsure when Maicon will return from knee injury

Grêmio manager Luiz Felipe Scolari refutes suggestion that he is set to move to China

Juventus Director General and Sports Department CEO Giuseppe Marotta discusses Fiorentina goalkeeper Neto

Oscar ‘very happy’ at Chelsea

Coutinho’s Liverpool success makes Inter chief ‘sad’

Orlando City SC defender Rafael Ramos credits Kaká for helping early season form

Chelsea’s Oscar links up with Pele for Malaysian drink promotion

Chelsea manager José Mourinho confident of finalising deal for Atlético Paranaense midfielder Nathan

Report: Juventus to compete with Manchester City for defender Alex Sandro

Report: Roma make progress on deal for Torino wing-back Bruno Peres

Report: Napoli tracking Cruzeiro full-back Mayke

Arsenal’s Wellington Silva finally gains right to play in England

Latest News.

  • All
  • Seleção
  • Teams
  • Players
April 20, 2015
22:55Hellas Verona goalkeeper Rafael happy hard work paid off after saving Alessandro Diamanti's penalty
20:18Filipe Luis could leave Chelsea for Madrid return
20:12Paulistão: Palmerias defeat Corinthians in epic shootout
20:11Diego Costa returns to Chelsea training
19:40Van der Sar praises Mourinho for Diego Costa masterstroke
19:33Liverpool’s Lucas misses out on Wembley yet again
18:04Report: Liverpool to rival Juventus bid for Fiorentina goalkeeper Neto
17:15Manchester City midfielder Fernando pleased with West Ham United win and wants strong end to the season
16:27Thiago Silva out of Barça clash
16:25Eight Corinthians football fans shot dead in Brazil
16:24Dani Alves says Barça are coming into PSG game strongly
16:22Adriano: 'Messi, Suárez and Neymar the best attack in the world'
16:21Neymar and Luis Enrique are at peace, says the player's father
15:22Report: Manchester United scout Internacional midfield duo Eduardo Sasha and Rodrigo Dourado
14:04Report: Fiorentina goalkeeper Neto happy to join Juventus as reserve to first choice Gianluigi Buffon
10:12Paulinho impresses against Newcastle
10:05Oscar reminds the Premier League of his talent
09:52Ronaldinho rolls back the years for Querétaro
09:28Brazilians in Europe: Jonas strikes again for Benfica
09:11Paulistão: Santos defeat São Paulo to qualify for the final
April 19, 2015
22:56Liverpool’s Lucas says camera phones mean danger for young players
22:39Minas Gerais State Championship: Atlético Mineiro defeat rivals Cruzeiro
22:26Coutinho goal not enough for Liverpool to avoid FA Cup defeat
20:54Milan Assistant Coach Mauro Tassotti explains why Alex started the Derby della Madonnina
17:26Report: Roma consider mutual termination for defender Maicon after injury hit season
16:07Roma Head Coach Rudi Garcia unsure when Maicon will return from knee injury
11:24Grêmio manager Luiz Felipe Scolari refutes suggestion that he is set to move to China
09:55Juventus Director General and Sports Department CEO Giuseppe Marotta discusses Fiorentina goalkeeper Neto
April 18, 2015
15:51Manchester United target Marquinhos commits future to PSG
15:50PSG captain Thiago Silva to miss Nice game
15:49Philippe Coutinho on meeting Pelé
15:48Juliano Belletti talks about Neymar
15:47David Luiz defended by mother after Champions League horror show
April 17, 2015
20:53Willian focuses on defence at Chelsea
20:09Oscar ‘very happy’ at Chelsea
20:02Coutinho’s Liverpool success makes Inter chief ‘sad’
19:58Orlando City SC defender Rafael Ramos credits Kaká for helping early season form
19:13Chelsea’s Oscar links up with Pele for Malaysian drink promotion
18:51Chelsea manager José Mourinho confident of finalising deal for Atlético Paranaense midfielder Nathan
17:03Report: Juventus to compete with Manchester City for defender Alex Sandro
14:17Pelé would pick Messi over Cristiano Ronaldo
14:14Barcelona president Bartomeu warns Neymar
14:12Neymar plays down his gestures in Sevilla game
13:43Laurent Blanc coy on PSG's interest in Dani Alves
13:40Pelé insists Neymar is reaching the level of the best
08:11Report: Roma make progress on deal for Torino wing-back Bruno Peres
07:54Report: Napoli tracking Cruzeiro full-back Mayke
April 16, 2015
20:45Arsenal’s Wellington Silva finally gains right to play in England
19:54Dunga backs Chelsea's Oscar for Juventus move
19:51Inter Milan keen on Liverpool’s Lucas
April 20, 2015
16:27Thiago Silva out of Barça clash
16:25Eight Corinthians football fans shot dead in Brazil
16:24Dani Alves says Barça are coming into PSG game strongly
16:22Adriano: 'Messi, Suárez and Neymar the best attack in the world'
16:21Neymar and Luis Enrique are at peace, says the player's father
April 18, 2015
15:51Manchester United target Marquinhos commits future to PSG
15:50PSG captain Thiago Silva to miss Nice game
15:49Philippe Coutinho on meeting Pelé
15:48Juliano Belletti talks about Neymar
15:47David Luiz defended by mother after Champions League horror show
April 17, 2015
14:17Pelé would pick Messi over Cristiano Ronaldo
14:14Barcelona president Bartomeu warns Neymar
14:12Neymar plays down his gestures in Sevilla game
13:43Laurent Blanc coy on PSG's interest in Dani Alves
13:40Pelé insists Neymar is reaching the level of the best
April 16, 2015
15:46Porto played with their hearts in their boots, says Casemiro
15:45Ex-Arsenal midfielder Gilberto says Brazil must prioritise World Cup qualifiers over Copa América
15:43Ex-England coach Hoddle: 'David Luiz plays like an eight-year-old'
15:42Beckenbauer says Dante played against Porto in ski boots
15:40Thiago Silva injured against PSG
April 15, 2015
15:23Neymar yet to reach physical peak, says Seedorf
15:22Suárez: 'My job is to help Messi and Neymar'
15:21Dani Alves' suspension wouldn't affect Barcelona against PSG, says Luis Enrique
15:19David Luiz included in PSG squad to face Barcelona
15:18Luis Enrique implies Neymar must accept that the coach have to make decisions
April 14, 2015
12:52Roberto Carlos wants to manage the Seleção later in his career
12:51Ex-Corinthians striker Carlos Tévez to return to Boca Juniors
12:50Neymar case - Barcelona president could face two years in prision
12:48Pelé: 'Every goal in Chile will see donation made to charity'
12:46Messi, Neymar and Suárez are the best, says Thiago Silva
April 13, 2015
14:20Barça vice-president: 'I don't know why Neymar was brought off'
14:19Messi has always been my idol, says PSG winger Lucas Moura
14:17Brazil hospital says Corinthians striker Paolo Guerrero likely has dengue fever
14:15Neymar outburst on being subbed off is sixth of the season
14:13Manchester Utd very interested in Lucas Moura
April 11, 2015
18:14Liverpool boss responds to John Terry selecting Coutinho as best player
18:12Dani Alves could stay at Barcelona
17:59Chelsea have bid accepted for Brazilian starlet Nathan
17:57Pelé says Messi and Neymar don't perform as well on international stage
17:49Neymar to comeback against Sevilla
April 10, 2015
14:31Ibrahimović is a champion, says Marquinhos
14:29Roberto Carlos picks his dream XI
14:28Barcelona after Italian full-back to replace Dani Alves
14:27Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal are monitoring Lucas Moura's contract situation
14:25Cafú hails Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho
April 09, 2015
14:29Neymar needed rest, says Barça coach Enrique
14:28Hulk targets Brazil return ahead of 2015 Copa América
14:27Casemiro hopeful Porto can go all the way in the Champions League
14:26Arsenal winger Alexis Sánchez is more 'concrete' than Neymar, says Di Natale
14:25Brazil will name Copa América squad on May 5
January 19, 2015
20:37Willian: 'Chelsea controlled the game'
January 11, 2015
19:49Coritiba confirm the signings of Negueba and Pedro Ken
17:17De Arrascaeta to Internacional can be announced any time now, says Defensor president
January 04, 2015
16:03Mircea Lucescu: Tour of Brazil will become part of Shakhtar history
15:08Lucescu: Shakhtar’s Brazil tour will be part of the history
January 03, 2015
12:16Sergei Palkin: It’s important for us to play with the top teams of the Brazilian league
January 02, 2015
16:49Cruzeiro confirm survey from Mexico regarding Anselmo Ramon
15:28Internacional have competition from Europe for De Arrascaeta
14:16No contacts with Internacional, says Sandro's agent
14:13Shakhtar goes on tour across Brazil
December 30, 2014
17:18Fluminense director says no offer for Darío Conca
December 25, 2014
14:37Leandro Damião to Cruzeiro is back on
June 26, 2014
14:33Report: Flamengo one of eight clubs who have enquired about loaning Internazionale midfielder Rubén Botta
June 16, 2014
11:35Brazil Head Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari backs Portugal to recovery from heavy Germany defeat
June 09, 2014
23:18Italy forward Lorenzo Insigne insists Italy’s poor defending in victory against Fluminense is “not important”
23:12Italy forward Ciro Immobile “excited” with hat-trick against Fluminense
22:56Italy Head Coach Cesare Prandelli pleased with Fluminense victory
22:52Italy Head Coach Cesare Prandelli delighted with Brazilian support
June 07, 2014
23:32Italy line up confirmed for Fluminense friendly
May 19, 2014
22:13Portugal Manager Paulo Bento names his 23-man 2014 FIFA World Cup squad
May 18, 2014
19:09Sambafoot Sunday: Botafogo's Shaky Start to 2014
April 13, 2014
08:34Sambafoot Sunday: Brazilian Clubs' Libertadores Numbers Game
April 06, 2014
09:20Sambafoot Sunday: Atlético Mineiro's Anelka Interest Should be the Norm
February 14, 2014
12:23Shakhtar Donetsk: President decided to support Maicon’s family
February 09, 2014
09:25Sambafoot Sunday: Where’s Wallyson? Botafogo find their new hero post-Seedorf
January 26, 2014
10:09Sambafoot Sunday: Cruciate curse affects Seleção hopes of three midfielders
December 01, 2013
13:36Sambafoot Sunday: Could Éverton Ribeiro Crack Europe?
November 25, 2013
11:39Brasileirão Week 36 round up: Vasco shock champions to stay in contention while defeat leaves Ponte Preta on the brink
November 24, 2013
10:17Sambafoot Sunday: Palmeiras Promoted with Chapecoense in Tow
November 17, 2013
12:00Palmeiras secure Brasileirão Série B title with 3-0 win against Boa Esporte
November 12, 2013
08:42Relegation threatened Fluminense sack head coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo
November 10, 2013
12:59Sambafoot Sunday: Atlético Paranaense's hurricane season
November 09, 2013
10:05Drummer angers Flamengo fans
November 04, 2013
13:04Brasileirão week 32 round-up: Big win for Vasco as in-form Goiás maintain top four push
November 03, 2013
17:31Sambafoot Sunday: Surprise Packages in the 2013 Brasileirão
October 28, 2013
11:31Brasileirão Week 31 round up: Vital win for Ponte Preta while Goiás maintain top four push
October 21, 2013
13:21Olympique Marseille without defender Lucas Mendes for Napoli fixture
12:12Injury rules Bayern Munich defender Dante out of Viktoria Plzeň tie
October 20, 2013
23:50São Paulo president Juvenal Juvêncio admits interest in Lucas Moura loan return
October 18, 2013
11:47Diego Maradona dispute’s Pelé’s FIFA recognition
09:04Del Bosque: Costa approach no insult to current strikers
October 17, 2013
21:43Hard work is paying off insists Bayern Munich defender Rafinha
13:17Rodrigo Lasmar: Ronaldinho on track to be fit for the Club World Cup
October 16, 2013
19:53Report: Tottenham Hotspur set to offer Paulinho extended deal
09:12Report: São Paulo could terminate Lúcio’s contract if injury concerns prevail
October 13, 2013
18:32Brasileirão: Grêmio slip up as Vitoria and Santos grab victories
14:49Vanderlei Luxemburgo: ‘Simulation part of football’
October 09, 2013
20:37Mineiro learn Club World Cup fate
October 06, 2013
22:39Oswaldo de Oliveira in hospital after Botafogo defeat
11:55Sambafoot Sunday: Cruzeiro cruising at the top of the Brasileirão
April 20, 2015
22:55Hellas Verona goalkeeper Rafael happy hard work paid off after saving Alessandro Diamanti's penalty
18:04Report: Liverpool to rival Juventus bid for Fiorentina goalkeeper Neto
17:15Manchester City midfielder Fernando pleased with West Ham United win and wants strong end to the season
15:22Report: Manchester United scout Internacional midfield duo Eduardo Sasha and Rodrigo Dourado
14:04Report: Fiorentina goalkeeper Neto happy to join Juventus as reserve to first choice Gianluigi Buffon
April 19, 2015
20:54Milan Assistant Coach Mauro Tassotti explains why Alex started the Derby della Madonnina
17:26Report: Roma consider mutual termination for defender Maicon after injury hit season
16:07Roma Head Coach Rudi Garcia unsure when Maicon will return from knee injury
11:24Grêmio manager Luiz Felipe Scolari refutes suggestion that he is set to move to China
09:55Juventus Director General and Sports Department CEO Giuseppe Marotta discusses Fiorentina goalkeeper Neto
April 17, 2015
19:58Orlando City SC defender Rafael Ramos credits Kaká for helping early season form
18:51Chelsea manager José Mourinho confident of finalising deal for Atlético Paranaense midfielder Nathan
17:03Report: Juventus to compete with Manchester City for defender Alex Sandro
08:11Report: Roma make progress on deal for Torino wing-back Bruno Peres
07:54Report: Napoli tracking Cruzeiro full-back Mayke
April 15, 2015
20:51Fiorentina Head Coach Vincenzo Montella admits goalkeeper Neto is not 100% fit for Dynamo Kyiv tie
16:03Bayern Munich Head Coach Pep Guardiola name-checks FC Porto's Casemiro as possible threat
15:34Barcelona Director of Football Ariedo Braida denies interest in Lazio midfielder Felipe Anderson
14:42Paris Saint-Germain manager Laurent Blanc denies a proposal has been made to Barcelona's Daniel Alves
12:54Atlético Paranaense midfielder Nathan confirms on Twitter that he is set to sign with Chelsea
April 14, 2015
08:02Report: Chelsea remain on track to secure deal for Atlético Paranaense midfielder Nathan
07:21Report: Corinthians reject approach from Roma for forward Malcom
April 13, 2015
16:32Report: São Paulo ready to make surprise offer for veteran Lazio forward Miroslav Klose
15:28Barcelona defender Daniel Alves insists he is yet to decide his future
14:44Manager Adrian Heath admits Orlando City SC were fortunate with Kaká penalty retake in 2-0 win at Portland Timbers
13:56Lazio midfielder Felipe Anderson explains why it took him time to settle in Italy
13:43Lazio midfielder Felipe Anderson hails Head Coach Stefano Pioli's influence on his development
April 12, 2015
19:29Sandro refuses to blame former manager Harry Redknapp for Queens Park Rangers' struggles
17:14Head Coach Caleb Porter confident Portland Timbers can stifle Orlando City SC star Kaká
14:42Barcelona Head Coach Luis Enrique not interested in "nonsense" surrounding Neymar substitution
13:21Report: Former Argentina Head Coach Alejandro Sabella to choose between Manchester City and São Paulo
12:56Brazil Head Coach Dunga doesn't want Lazio's Felipe Anderson compared to Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar
April 07, 2015
18:25Report: Sampdoria ready to extend forward Éder's contract until 2021
17:32Atlético de Madrid defender Miranda concedes Real Madrid are "probably the best in the world"
07:46Report: Fluminense ready to sell forward Kenedy to investment group ahead of possible Chelsea switch
07:25Internacional President Vitório Píffero confirms defender Fabrício will leave the club
April 06, 2015
20:57Report: Napoli, Porto, Roma and Sporting CP set to battle for Torino wing-back Bruno Peres
18:54Report: Paris Saint-Germain duo David Luiz and Thiago Motta doubtful for UEFA Champions League clash with Barcelona
17:52Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Blaise Matuidi admits loss of David Luiz and Thiago Motta to injury is "distressing"
16:46TSG 1899 Hoffenheim midfielder Roberto Firmino believes playing in the Bundesliga has helped him develop
07:36Report: Tottenham Hotspur to sell midfielder Paulinho as part of summer clear-out
April 05, 2015
17:35Report: Paris Saint-Germain ready to make big bid to secure Manchester United midfielder Andreas Pereira
17:30Report: Benfica to target Livorno full-back Maicon
10:28Agent Bernardo Silva: Bruno Peres "will certainly leave Torino this summer"
April 03, 2015
07:56 Owner Sourav Ganguly hints that Orlando City SC's Kaká could play for Atlético de Kolkata in the 2015 ISL
April 01, 2015
19:04Agent Stefano Castagna suggests Paris Saint-Germain and Liverpool want Fiorentina goalkeeper Neto
19:00Fiorentina goalkeeper Ciprian Tătărușanu praises counterpart Neto
18:51Agent Luciano Ramalho confirms Milan loanee Pablo Armero could move to Flamengo
March 31, 2015
08:02Report: Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United to compete for TSG 1899 Hoffenheim attacking midfielder Roberto Firmino
07:22Report: Avellino's Rodrigo Ely and Livorno full-back Maicon turn down Italy to represent Brazil
To the top