Research by the curator of the Scottish Football Museum at Hampden has revealed that the Brazilians were not introduced to football by Charles Miller, an Englishman, as most records state.
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Rather, it was Thomas Donohue, a working-class technician, from the south side of Glasgow, who gave Brazil the chance to develop the beautiful game.
Research by Richard McBrearty, the museum’s curator, has uncovered the remarkable story of Donohue, a dye expert, who travelled to Brazil in 1893 after he had been recruited to work in a factory in Bangu, near Rio de Janeiro. An excellent footballer himself, Donohue was keen to start a team when he arrived in his new home.
However, he first had to import a football as he found none in Brazil. Donohue eventually received a ball and boots from Britain and staked out a primitive pitch near the factory.
The first football match in Brazil took place there on a Sunday in April 1894, six months before Miller started his team in Sao Paolo.
Donohue, at 31, was by then a football veteran, having played for teams in Busby, a hotbed of the sport.
In Bangu, he went around the homes of workers and gathered 10 players. The first match in Brazil was thus played as five-a-side.
Donohue’s legacy extends beyond the considerable achievement of introducing football to the country most associated with the term “the beautiful game”. He also gave black workers the chance to play the game.
“Brazilian society was divided on racial lines and Charles Miller inhabited a different social set than Donohue,” said McBrearty.
“Miller’s introduction of football to Sao Paulo mostly involved the upper classes. 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.”
With football established as a working-class sport, the way was paved for generations of blacks to play. Brazil’s history is heavily sprinkled with great black players including Garrincha, Pele and Ronaldo, all World Cup winners.
McBrearty, who discovered the story of Donohue while researching a friendly match between Bangu and Kilmarnock, said: “One does not want to take anything away from Miller, who was a crucial figure, but Donohue should be recognised as both the man who brought the game to Brazil and to the poorer people who have kept it alive.”
McBrearty’s early research into Donohue was aided by John McVicar, a local historian from Busby. He discovered information that allowed McBrearty to paint a portrait of the father of Brazilian football.