FOOTBALL may have dominated South American culture since it arrived there 115 years ago - but there is a new craze gripping the continent:

the British science-fiction series Doctor Who, writes Rachel Loxton.

The popularity of the show is so high that the series' World Tour, which has just ended, visited Brazil's Rio de Janeiro and saw new Doctor Peter Capaldi mobbed by crowds. The first episode of the new series screened last night in the UK and several countries overseas, including Brazil.

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Fans in South America put the interest down to a rebellion against imported culture from the US.

Sao Paulo-based Thais Aux, 31, who runs doctorwhobrasil.com, said: "In Brazil, we are so used to American series, and I think Doctor Who goes a different way, I think that's why it's so popular."

Aux interviewed Doctor Who show-runner and writer Steven Moffat on Monday and asked why he thinks the Timelord is a success in Latin America. She said: "He doesn't know why it's so popular here either. He said that people who like British things will love to watch British shows. And I think the Doctor, even though he's an alien, he's very British."

Sao Paulo-based freelance journalist Ben Tavener, originally from Canterbury, said people were "ridiculously excited" about the new series.

He said: "There is a history of enjoying British television over here and sometimes remaking it … there's a legacy of popularity for BBC stuff."