Is São Paulo one of the football capitals of the world?
Many believe that Brazil is the heartbeat of world
Many believe that Brazil is the heartbeat of world football, bringing flair and passion to the sport by the bucketload. The national team has five World Cup trophies and its domestic game is very much alive and kicking. One Brazilian city in particular epitomises everything that’s great about Brazilian football and that metropolis is São Paulo.
São Paulo is the most populous city in all of Brazil. It’s also the capital of the broader state of São Paulo. It just so happens that it is home to four of Brazil’s biggest football clubs too. Rumour has it that football first arrived here in the late 19th century. Charles Miller, a Brazil-born man with a Scottish father, worked for the São Paulo Railway Company and waxed lyrical about the sport of football to his colleagues after living in the UK for a few years. The rest is history.
There's no doubt that Brazilian football is one of the biggest inspirations in popular culture. It's one of the most successful nations for the export of football stars, after all. In fact, football is arguably the country's biggest pop culture influence, alongside Brazil's rainforest climate and the sheer magnificence of the Amazon. The area's diverse wildlife has translated seamlessly to the entertainment industry, in the same way as Brazil's number-one sport, with its appearance in popular video games and slots games.
When it comes to the distinct economy of São Paulo, its people are most passionate about their football. As the city expanded through the decades, football became more of a religion than a pastime in the favelas. The favela pitches have long served as a part of the community for young football fans and players to develop their football and social skills. Some of these have gone on to represent São Paulo’s biggest professional football clubs.
Below, we explore the history of São Paulo’s “big four” football clubs, which are some of the most famous on the planet.
We start by looking at the iconic club of Santos. Although it’s not technically in the city of São Paulo, it’s still within the state. Its all-white football kits with black trim are some of the most recognisable in world football.
One of the club’s biggest claims to fame is its association with Brazilian legend Pele. Pele, who many deem the greatest footballer of all time, played for 18 seasons in a Santos jersey. He debuted as a teen and left as a 34-year-old football icon. Pele helped Santos to 26 trophies during his time at the club, including two World Club Championships and two South American Championships. Interestingly, the team has only won the Copa do Brasil once back in 2010.
São Paulo is one of the most successful club sides in Brazil’s domestic game. Its most prolific era came in the early 1990s, when it landed a brace of South American Championships and the same number of World Club Championships. The team even achieved a South American and World Club double in 2005.
São Paulo play home games in the expansive Estadio Cicero Pompeu de Toledo, more commonly known as Morumbi. With a capacity of almost 67,000, this is one of the finest amphitheatres in Brazilian football.
Although you might think São Paulo would be the most popular team in the city, that prize goes to Corinthians. This team is considered the team of the working classes. Its supporters come from the working-class suburban areas and favelas, which creates an authentic sense of community around the team nicknamed Timão.
The interesting thing about Corinthians is that they’ve lacked the success of the likes of São Paulo and Santos. In fact, they only won their first national championship in 1990. The early 2010s was considered the golden age for Corinthians fans, as their team landed a further two national titles, a South American Championship, and a World Club Championship too. Today, all three teams compete in the Paulista A1 at domestic level.
Last but by no means least, Palmeiras is well worth its inclusion in this article. It’s considered the bitter rival of Corinthians. Palmeiras has close links with São Paulo’s Italian community, with the club itself established by a collection of labourers from Italy back in the early 1900s.
Palmeiras’ stadium, the Allianz Parque stadium, is one of the most contemporary in São Paulo. It was constructed in 2014 and holds almost 44,000 fans. Palmeiras is one of the best-supported teams in South America, with a fan base more than 18 million strong.
With four clubs battling on domestic, continental and global fronts, it’s clear to see that São Paulo is paving the way for Brazilian and South American football as a whole.