Brazil is well known for its Carnival, its beautiful women and football. Whereas the first two are embedded in early historical and cultural roots the third is much more recent dating back to the end of the last century.
It is a tale of true sportsmanship and ideals of adventure and of course good fortune … and starts with an expatriate named Miller who worked on the railway construction project in São Paulo together with some 3000 other immigrant families from the British Isles in the last decades of the 19th century. At that time the population of São Paulo City was 300,000. This was the golden age of industrial development. Today São Paulo is the third largest in the world with over 10 million inhabitants.
Back to Mr. Miller who decided to send his young boy Charlie to England for a good all-round education. Charlie aged 10 soon after duly arrived at a school in Southampton called Bannisters in 1884. This was the beginning of a soccer apprenticeship by Brazil’s first player. Charles was a natural who quickly picked up the arts of this popular college game in England.
The football association was being formed at the time. Eton, Rugby, Charterhouse and other colleges all had developed their own rules to the game. Indeed Rugby refused to drop the ball handling and went on to devise their own separate game.
The game was also played in different styles about the country. In the south where the ground was hard and dry a dribbling game developed in which a quicker football was played with less passes. This was contrary to the passing game more popular up north where it was practised on muddy fields at a slower pace.
Young Miller therefore became skilled at the dribble, swerve, feign, use of rapid speed as well as in taking freekicks and heading. As an accomplished winger and striker he held school honours that were to gain him entry first into the Southampton Club team and then into the County team of Hampshire.
In 1892 a couple of years before his return to Brazil, Charlie was invited to play a game for the Corinthian Football Club a team formed of players invited from public schools and universities. This Club played football using the Greek Olimpian spirits of true sportmanship in the purest form. If a penalty was conceded by the team the goal keeper would not try to defend it. They were a team of ambassadors to the game that toured around the world and remain up until today where they play still under the Corinthian Casuals name, as amateurs.
On his return Charles brought some football equipment and a rules book with him. He then went on to develop the new rules of the game amongst the comunity in São Paulo.
In 1888 six years before his return the first sorts club (picture right) was founded in the City. SPAC, São Paulo Athletic Club. (Today SPAC Club is the location for the meetings of the Round Table No. 1 São Paulo on each third Tuesday night).
So it was then that the first clubs were formed in São Paulo. At the turn of the century. SPAC won the first three years championships. Miller’s skils were far and above his colleagues at this stage. He was infact given the honour of contributing his name to a move involving a deft flick of the ball with the heel Chaleiro” which today is still a marvel to see as practised by the skillful ball players of the local and national teams. Indeed the skills of such players as Rivelino, Socrates and the greatest of them all Pele, owe no small debt to the exploits of this poneer in São Paulo of modern day football and particularly the skilful dribbling game.
This story has many other historical curiosities amongst which one was the bond that Charles Miller kept with English football throughout his life. Teams from Southampton and Corinthians Club came over to Brazil and played against SPAC and other teams in São Paulo. One on occasion in 1910 a new local team was about to be formed after a tour of the Corintians team to Brazil and Charles was asked to suggest a name for the team. He replied why not call yourselves after Corintians and so it was that one of the most popular clubs in Brazil got its name. A team that today is Brazilian Champion (1998) and boasts great names amongst its past and present players.
A final anecdote to relate concerns the year 1988 when SPAC Club celebrated its centenary and the English Corintians Team came across again to play them at Morumbi Stadium. The end of the tour was a classic against the local professional Corintians paulista team with Socrates and Rivelino amongst its players. This game was played at Paecambu Stadium in São Paulo and true to Corinthian principles of good clean football the score was 1 to 0 in favor of the locals when as agreed Socrates changed shirts to play alongside the English amateurs. This did not affect the score unfortunately although a largely packed stadium was cheering on for a drawn result.
Thanks to the pioneers and all the Clubs responsible for this achievement.
Adapted by Tony McCarthy from the book “Charles William Miller 1894 – 1994 Centenary Memoriam SPAC” by John R. Mills