Brazil Travel

Sports in Brazil

Tourists enjoying a game of beach volleyball at a beautiful beach No country in the world plays soccer like Brazil. No country has the tradition and glory that has been won by Brazilian teams. Not England, Argentina, Italy, Germany, Spain or anybody else.

The greatest soccer players have been brazilian, the largest stadium is in Rio and the brazilian fans are the most fanatical.

Soccer in Brazil is more than two teams of 11 players attempt to put an inflated ball into goal cages at opposite ends of a playing field. Soccer is a childhood tradition, starting as soon as a boy can walk, and continuing throughout childhood and adolescense in the streets and fields of every city and village in Brazil, before, after and even during school hours.

The name of the game presents some confusion. In countries other than United States soccer is called football. In Brazil is is coomonly written as futebol and pronounced foot-tee-bol. The word soccer is derived from the term SOCiety footbol or asSOCiation football. The continuous action and fast pace of soccer have made it a major spectator sport throughout the world, and for the same reasons it has attracted millions of players. Since the late 1960s and early 1970s its growth Competing both formally and informally, there are many millions of soccer players in the world. The international governing body of soccer is the Federation Internationale de Football Associations (FIFA), with headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland. Every 4 years national teams -- made up of the top players from each country (who may play professionally for teams in other countries) -- vie for the World Cup, soccer's most coveted prize. It is the world's most popular athletic event, possibly excepting the Summer Olympics. The 1990 World Cup finals had a television audience that exceeded a billion. The 1994 Cup was hosted by the United States and was won by Brazil.

Soccerlike games undoubtedly predate recorded history. Soccer historians find its ancestry in the similar but unstructured games of medieval English village life. When the London Football Association issued (1863) its first set of rules, order was brought to the sport. All major innovations in soccer were English, such as international matches (between England and Scotland, in 1872), the introduction of professionalism (1885), and the first full-time league (1888). Soccer was carried to continental Europe, South America, and India by British sailors and settlers, and it gained instant appeal wherever it was demonstrated. The sport has been a regular Olympic Games event since 1908.

Soccer's international governing body, the FIFA, was formed in 1904 with the objective of organizing championship matches between professional teams of different nations. FIFA, headquartered in Switzerland, is headed by a Brazilian, Joao Havelange. Professionalism arrived in continental Europe in the 1920s and in South America less than a decade later. By 1930 the interest in soccer was high enough to ensure the success of the first World Cup, even though only 13 countries entered. Brazil is the ONLY country to have played in ALL world cups. Take that, Argentina.

No other team sport approaches soccer's popularity in both Europe and South America. The professional leagues on these continents play from fall through spring in domestic competition, after which the top teams take part in international "cup," or tournament, play. The European Cup is the most prestigious on that continent. The best tournament in South America is for the Liberator's Cup, often won by a team from Argentina. The excuse for this being that Brazilians don't care about Liberator's cup. Those two cup winners then meet for the annual World Club Championship.

The ardor of soccer spectators, particularly during international matches, sometimes results in violence. The worst soccer riot in history began when a goal was disallowed in a 1964 Olympic qualifying match in Lima between Argentina and Peru: 309 persons were killed and 1,000 injured. A 1970 World Cup qualifying match between Honduras and El Salvador sparked a border war between those two nations. At the 1985 European Cup final, held in Brussels and played between Liverpool of England and Juventus of Italy, 38 fans were killed and more than 200 injured when fighting erupted in the stands.

Edson Arantes do Nascimento (born in 1940), better known as Pele, was perhaps the greatest of all soccer players. A supremely gifted athlete, he started playing soccer as a teenager, and soon he was playing as well as seasoned veterans. Pele made his debut with the major league Santos club in 1956 at the age of 15 and soon gained a reputation as an electrifying goal scorer. A year later he was selected to play for the Brazilian national team, and in 1958 he led them to victory in the World Cup, Brazil's first international championship. Brazil won the World Cup again in 1962 and 1970 with Pele on the team. In his long professional career, in which he was never seriously injured, Pele scored 1,281 goals in 1,363 games, a remarkable feat because he was invariably given special coverage by the opposition. A muscular, compact man standing 1 m 72 cm (5 ft 8 in) tall and weighing 68 kg (150 lb), Pele possessed the perfect blend of physical power, dazzling ball handling, and an instinct for discerning an opponent's weakness. Pele retired in 1974 but was enticed to return to play in 1975 when the New York Cosmos offered him a multimillion-dollar contract. Although his once-matchless skills had faded, he was of immense value in popularizing soccer and helping establish the sport in the United States. Pele played with the Cosmos for 2 1/2 years before he retired permanently in 1977.

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