Soccer and Racism

Soccer and Racism

The Beginnings of Futebol in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, 1895-1933

By Rosana Barbosa

Anthem Critical Introductions

Anthem Brazilian Studies

This book aims to use soccer as a tool to understand key elements of Brazil’s history from the overthrow of the Monarchy in 1889 to the 1930 Revolution that brought Getulio Vargas to power – the so-called First Republic. 

Hardback, 72 Pages


July 2022

£60.00, $80.00

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About This Book

The book looks at the turn of the century, when organized soccer began to be played in a systematic way by the European community of Rio and São Paulo, mostly by the British. It shows that the new sport was embraced by these people as a way to celebrate their culture, and to imitate the activities of the elite schools in Britain that became quite popular throughout Europe. Young Brazilians from the elite also embraced the sport as a way of sharing a popular European sport that was identified with what was respected as a white/upper class activity. In this way making a distinction from the lower and darker populations. Making this distinction was important in this moment of post-emancipation, affirming the superiority of the upper/white class. It was also important for the European residents of Brazil in order to distinguish themselves from Brazilians (colonial mentality). Football was one aspect of the modernity that these two cities were craving to achieve.

The book highlights the impact of European-based racial assumptions on the development of professional soccer. It provides a broad discussion on how the official discourse after 1930 was one of conciliation, claiming that Brazil was not European, but unique due to its racial mixing. This idea began to be promoted by artists and intellectuals as an attempt to Brazilianize the country, but it was soon embraced by politicians with the leadership of President Getulio Vargas in an attempt to create a unified national identity. In this context, futebol was also unique in relation to European football because of its mulatoism. Although this new attitude would influence social and racial barriers within football to fall, racism did not end, nor did Brazil become a racial democracy – as it has been claimed by many. 


“Using engaging and agile prose, Barbosa skillfully uses soccer as a prism to explore critical factors related to Brazilian history. This excellent book clearly reveals how Brazil’s widely popular sport has been intrinsically connected since its origins to questions regarding economic development, national identity and social and racial relations." – Jorge A. Nállim, Professor, Department of History, University of Manitoba, Canada.

“ In this book, Rosana Barbosa provides an innovative and deeply insightful interpretive discussion of the role of soccer as an instrument of change in Brazil. It is characterized not only by analytical insight but also by nuance and sensibility. It is a vivid study of sports history and Brazilian history, andmost importantly, a demonstration of the inseparability of both during a crucial era.”– Dr. John Reid, Saint Mary’s University, Nova Scotia, Canada.

“In this short but informative study, Rosana Barbosa demonstrates the pervasive influence of European racial superiority on the early history of Brazilian football. Focusing on Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, Soccer and Racism reveals a segregated sport built by Anglophone elites, who ultimately lost racial control of the beautiful game." – Dr Alan McDougall, Professor of History, University of Guelph, Canada.

Author Information

Rosana Barbosa is a professor in the history department at Saint Mary’s University, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.


Anthem Critical Introductions

Anthem Brazilian Studies

Table of Contents

Foreword; Introduction; 1 Soccer and Investments as Civilizing Forces, The Early Years of Soccer in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Urban Development in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, The Brazilian, Traction, Power and Light Company, The Light and Futebolin São Paulo; 2 Racial Exclusion in the Gentleman’s Sport, Rio’s Liga Metropolitana,  The South American Cup of 1921,  3 Soccer and Lusophobia, The Portuguese as an Immigrant Group and Lusophobia; Club de Regatas Vasco da Gama and the AssociaçãoMetropolitana de EsportesAtléticos (AMEA); Amateurism versus Professionalism; Epilogue: The End of Exclusion but the Continuation of Racism; Bibliography ; Index


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