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Played in South America but made in Scotland

THEIR names will be remembered sombrely, black on the white page, alongside the other Britons from Isaac Newton to Winston Churchill, from Queen Victoria to Margaret Thatcher, who have shaped and marked the British presence in the world.

Charles Miller
Charles Miller

The legacy of two Scots included today in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is not one of sober remembrance. It is colourful, raucous and life-enhancing. They are the Caledonian pioneers who brought the beautiful game to South America, most specifically Brazil and Argentina.

The Oxford DNB now includes the biography of the footballer and administrator, Charles Miller (1874-1953). A prominent figure in the commercial life of Sao Paolo, and of Scottish descent, Miller is attributed with introducing football to Brazil in 1894, though another Scot, Tom Donohue may just have pipped him.

Miller, though, is the man credited with regulating Brazilian football into a coherent force. It is one that has seized both the imagination of the world through its style and success, with the national team winning the World Cup five times.

The other Scot honoured by inclusion to the dictionary is Alexander Watson Hutton (1853-1936). In 1884, in Buenos Aires, the Edinburgh-educated teacher Hutton founded a high school, where he built up a culture of team sports and, in particular, football.

In 1893 Hutton became first president of the Argentine Association Football League.

Richard McBrearty, curator of the Scottish Football Museum at Hampden, has just returned from Sao Paulo where he took part in a symposium on football ahead of next month's World Cup in the country.

He is, of course, aware of the Scottish influence in South America, though he cautions that Miller imposed order rather than style on the Brazilian game.

"It must be remembered that Miller, whose father was Scottish, was educated in Southampton at public school. So he brought an individualistic game to South America, based on dribbling. He is very important in regulating football in that set up," he says.

"There is a wonderful picture of him as a child in a kilt, so there is the Caledonian link."

Hutton, though, is a bona fide Scotsman. He graduated at Edinburgh University and on arrival in Buenos Aires set up St Andrew's School. "There is evidence that there was a small Scottish community in the city from 1825," says McBrearty.

Hutton set up a team of alumni and they won the Argentine Football League on several occasions. The teacher organised football diligently in the country. Andreas Campomar in Golazo, his history of Latin American football, points out that the alumni became one of the greatest teams in the country's history and adds: "Like the many Scots who ended up teaching in Latin America - Alec Lamont became headmaster at St Andrew's school in Buenos Aires, while Andrew Gemmell took up a position at Mackay and Sutherland in Chile - Watson brought a distinctive style of play, one that would come to define Latin American football.

"Queen's Park, a team Watson Hutton must have seen play in Glasgow, had developed a 'combination' technique, in which dribbling and passing were combined into an art form."

This form was perfected by the South American game over the decades, bringing the world Pele, Maradona, Messi, Francescoli, Garrincha, Kempes, Rivelino, Ronaldo (the big one) . . .

Indeed the Argentina team that won the World Cup in 1986 included Jose Luis Brown at centre-half. He scored in the 3-2 victory over West Germany and has a link to Leith.

"A family of Browns all played football in Buenos Aires in the 1890s. Seven or eight of them went on to play for Argentina," says McBrearty.

"They all descend from a John Brown who worked and lived in Leith Docks before he sailed to Buenos Aires. The World Cup winner would be a distant relative."

The lives of Miller and Hutton were recorded in the dictionary by Dr Matthew Brown, a reader in Latin American History at the University of Bristol.

Dr Brown arrived in Bristol in 2005 via the University of Edinburgh, University College London, Universidad Pablo de Olavide in Seville, Spain, and the European University Institute in Florence, Italy. He worked for a decade on Simón Bolívar and the independence of South America from colonial rule. He has now moved into the history of sports in South America, looking in particular at the first football teams to be established there.

His book, From Frontiers to Football: An Alternative History of Latin America, will be published in July to coincide with the World Cup final.

"It is a book in which football's rightful place as a part of cultural identity is marked," says Dr Brown. "This is a long history in which the Scottish influence is recognised. The Portugese word for British is Ingles so many of the histories translate figures into English when many of them were Scots.

"Football in South America is a succession of stories with origins that are Scottish, Italian and German. Football is a meeting of cultures. People are proud of that."

Yet for all Miller's influence on the Brazilian game, there may be one Scot who lays claim to being the true originator of football in the country.

"The debate rages on," says McBrearty. "Tom Donohue arrived before Miller but we cannot quite pinpoint the games that were played with him because they were in Bangu and there was no system of writing down details whereas Miller wrote everything down."

The curator, though, is confident Donohue brought football to Brazil in April 1894, that is at least six months before Miller introduced the game to Sao Paulo.

Donohue, a dye worker from Busby, was 29 when he arrived in Brazil and keen to continue his association with the game he loved.

"The significance of Donohue extends beyond the considerable achievement of bringing the game to Brazil," says McBrearty. He points out that Brazilian society was divided on racial lines and Miller inhabited a different social set than Donohue. Miller, the rich former public schoolboy, was essentially organising games with upper-class expatriates.

Donohue was playing with factory workers in an era that just followed the abolition of slavery in the country in 1888. "It was a matter of colour then. The light coloured Brazilians were further up the social chain and they were the players that Miller attracted to his sports clubs," says McBrearty.

The legacy of Donohue was thus crucial to the development of the game in Brazil as he brought the games to labourers who largely constituted the first black players in the country.

This allowed the game to spread and it gave it an extraordinary depth in terms of numbers.

Generations of spectacular players have followed with the accumulation of five World Cups. The role of Miller and Watson has now been officially recognised in the prestigious dictionary.

Donohue may yet be proven to be more than a footnote.

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