At turns lyrical, ironic, and sympathetic, Mario Filho's chronicle
of "the beautiful game" is a classic of Brazilian sports writing.
Filho (1908–1966)—a famous Brazilian journalist after whom Rio's
Maracana stadium is officially named—tells the Brazilian soccer
story as a boundary-busting one of race relations, popular culture,
and national identity. Now in English for the first time, the book
highlights national debates about the inclusion of
African-descended people in the body politic and situates early
black footballers as key creators of Brazilian culture.
When first introduced to Brazil by British expatriots at the end of the nineteenth century, the game was reserved for elites, excluding poor, working-class, and black Brazilians. Filho, drawing on lively in-depth interviews with coaches, players, and fans, points to the 1920s and 1930s as watershed decades when the gates cracked open. The poor players and players of color entered the game despite virulent discrimination. By the mid-1960s, Brazil had established itself as a global soccer powerhouse, winning two World Cups with the help of star Afro-Brazilians such as Pele and Garrincha. As a story of sport and racism in the world's most popular sport, this book could not be more relevant today.