What a great little sport, what a nice little game.


What a great little sport, what a nice little game... this was how Charles Miller remembered the views of his compatriots when he introduced them to Association Football - at the end of the 189São Paulo cricket season (how different the world of cricket might have been!).
Miller's associates in São Paulo were generally English ex-pats who since 1888 had been maintaining the São Paulo Athletic Club (SPAC). There was no Association Football played at the club until Miller's return to Brazil, in fact, several months later, in April 1895- what is recognized as the first organised football match in the country was played between São Paulo Railway and The Gas Company- both teams drawn from the ranks of the SPAC. 

Miller was in England from 1884 (when he was 10) until 1894. 
Descriptions of Miller as being a 'former Southampton player' (as in 'The Southampton player who introduced football to Brazil') are inaccurate. He turned out for St Mary's, the amateur team that evolved into Southampton (hence the nickname Saints). In fact St Mary's elevation to The Southern League (and the addition of Southampton to their name) coincided with Miller's return to Brazil.
Known as 'Nipper', Miller made his St Mary's debut as a 17 year old schoolboy on the 18th April 1892. It was  the last day of the season,a friendly against an Army XI from Aldershot. Miller scored the opener in a 3-1 win. 
During the 1892–93 season, St. Mary's (who now began to employ professional players) played 27 friendly matches. Miller's level of participation in these matches is not recorded. Saints played in 7 cup matches . Miller appeared in 1 of these. 
The following season St. Mary's played 23 friendlies. Again the details are not recorded. Of 11 cup matches played Miller appeared in 3. 
Miller'sconnection with Corinthian FC was even more casual (no pun intended). He made up the numbers when Corinth were a man short in a fixture against a Hampshire County XI. He was never a club member.

There is, of course, always a counter claim to any 'foundation myth'. It's hard to imagine that the ubiquitous 'English Sailors' who feature in the football foundation mythology of just about every country in the world were not having kick abouts in Rio or São Paulo in the 20 odd years before the São Paulo Railway v Gas Company fixture. 
One noteworthy challenge to Miller's status as the father of Brazilian football comes in the form of a  31 year old Scotsman called Thomas  Donohue. Donohue was an expert in the field of dyes, and worked at a textile factory in Bangu, Rio de Janeiro . He had played a lot of football back home in Busby, and was keen to get a game going in his new neighbourhood. He imported a ball and marked out a pitch next to the factory. 

This was where the first football match in Brazil took place in April 1894, (six months before Miller started his team in São Paolo). One fly in the ointment as regards the Donohue claim is the fact that this match was a 5 a side, due to a lack of interested parties. 
10 years later the factory was the site of the foundation of  Bangu Atlético Clube. 
There is something about these two matches that sets the scene for the early decades of the Brazilian game in  that whereas Miller introduced the game in the context of an exclusive sporting club for well to do white immigrants, Donohue brought the game to poor black and working class people.