Football in Brazil

Find out about football as a participatory and spectator sport in Brazil...

Football was introduced into Brazil during the first decade of the twentieth century by Brazilian-born Brit Charles Miller, and has long been recognized as part of the national identity.

Known in Brazil as O Jogo Bonito or The Beautiful Game, football is a favorite pastime for many, from kids in the streets or on the beach, to workers and executives together in gyms or parks, and, of course, by professionals for clubs across the land.

Football's development as a spectator sport in Brazil was given a boost in 2008 when FIFA announced that the country would play host to the 2014 World Cup Finals. This means that the next few years will see massive injections of finance into the stadiums and the spectator oriented infrastructure nationwide and, by extension, the tourism, communications, transport and security aspects of the host cities.

The governing body of football in Brazil is the Brazilian Football Confederation (Confederação Brasileira de Futebol).

Football Clubs in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro

Below is a guide and a brief history of football in Brazil's two biggest cities, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, with information on each city's professional teams.

São Paulo

Corinthians: Corinthians has one of the biggest fan bases in São Paulo, traditionally drawn from the city's working class. Winner of the Brazilian Championship in 2005, but relegated the following year, the club returned from the 2nd Division in 2008, and now has high expectations following the arrival of Ronaldo.

Palmeiras: Palmeiras consistently seem to challenge for trophies but rarely manage to take them home. The club has an average sized fan base, traditionally drawn from the Italian community.

Portuguesa: A traditional club, support for which has dwindled to almost nothing over the past few decades.

São Paulo: Recent successes in the Brazilian championship, the Latin American Champions League (called the Libertadores) and the World Club Championship have seen São Paulo grow in terms of both support and wealth. The club is now one of the best supported in the country and is always a strong contender for the domestic title.

Santos: One of the most famous Brazilian clubs due to its past glory with Pelé, Santos has achieved moderate success over recent years.

Rio de Janeiro

Flamengo: With an enormous national and international fan base following their dominance of the sport in the 1970s, Flamengo has had little recent success outside the Rio state championship.

Fluminense: One of the most traditional clubs in Brazil, renowned for its passionate supporters, even in the most difficult times. It has been over 30 years since the club won the Brazilian Championship.

Botafogo: Many of Brazil's greatest players have played for Botafogo over the years, with the most famous of all being the bow-legged legend Garrincha. Botafogo won the Brazilian Championship in 1995, but have struggled since.

Vasco da Gama: Vasco is Rio's oldest and most traditional club, founded in 1924 with the revolutionary declaration that no one, regardless of class or color, would be denied access to its grounds or team. The club conquered the Brazilian Championship in the 70s, 80s and 90s as well as this century, but is playing in Division 2 in 2009 following their relegation from the top flight.

Agenda of Games

Professional football games are played in Brazil throughout the year, except over the Christmas period.

The first games of the year involve the State Championships, which usually kick-off in mid-January and run for about four months until mid-May.

Immediately following these, Brazil's main Championship the Brasileirão starts, as do the second, third and fourth division championships. This mammoth competition sees the teams traveling the length and breadth of the country until mid-December when it reaches its peak. Until recently, the top eight teams, after they had all played each other, would go head-to-head in a cup competition format involving quarter finals, semi-finals and a final played over three legs. However, this has been replaced in recent years by the European model of a set number of games, with the team holding the most number of points taking the title.

As in Europe, while the main championship is being played, the Brazilian Cup competition (Copa do Brasil) is also played. This starts in mid-February and runs through until late June, following the traditional knock-out model.

Football Stadiums

São Paulo

The Estádio do Morumbi (official name Estádio Cícero Pompeu de Toledo) is home to the São Paulo Football Club and, as well as being the largest stadium in São Paulo, is the largest privately-owned stadium in the country. With a capacity of almost 74,000, it always hosts the local derby games (known as clássicos), due to demand for tickets, even if the game does not involve São Paulo F.C. itself.

The stadium is split into three tiers, the lower two offering seating, but none of which are numbered (numerada). The lower tier offers limited views of the pitch at cheaper prices. The middle tier houses the most expensive numbered seats (and private boxes), which offer the best views of the pitch. The massive, open arquibancada on the top level offers a terrace type arrangement with the best atmosphere, especially when the stadium is full of rival local fans.

The Estádio do Pacaembu (official name Estádio Municipal Paulo Machado de Carvalho) is the city of São Paulo's official stadium. The stadium has been adopted by Corinthians for their home games, as the capacity of just over 40,000 accommodates the demand for tickets (the club's official ground has a capacity of just 18,000).

The only part of the stadium that is at least partially covered is the bank of numerada seats, which run down one side of the pitch. Other than this, the stadium is entirely terraced, with most fans preferring the older curved terraces rather than the square-shaped bank of terracing which was installed in the early 1980s and is entirely open to the elements.

Opened in 2008, the city's permanent Football Museum (Museu do Futebol) is housed in the Pacaembu stadium. Divided into three sections entitled Emotion, History and Fun, the museum uses interactive video installations alongside the traditional presentation of items from the history of Brazilian and international football. The museum's most prized possession is the shirt worn by Pelé during the 1970 World Cup Final in Mexico.

  • Museu do Futebol
    : Estádio do Pacaembu, Praça Charles Miller s/n, 01234-900 São Paulo 
    Tel: (11) 3663 3848 
    Open: Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00-18:00 (operating hours may change, depending upon the stadium's timetable of games)

Parque Antárctica (official name Palestra Itália) is the home of the Palmeiras Football Club. It has an intimate atmosphere, despite its fairly large capacity of 32,000. Located in the Águas Brancas district of the city, it is considered to be one of the city's most accessible stadiums (together with Pacaembu). Gently rising terracing surround three quarters of the pitch, with one end displaying some palm trees, in homage to the club's name.

Vila Belmiro (official name Estádio Urbano Caldeira) is home to the Santos Football Club, and is perhaps the preferred Brazilian stadium by its fans. Packed with history (Pelé played his entire career in Brazil with Santos), the proximity of the terraces to the pitch in the English style makes for a heady atmosphere, while the grounds' location amongst housing in the center of the city engenders the spirit of a club of the people.

Rio de Janeiro

Maracanã (official name Estádio Jornalista Mário Filho) in Rio de Janeiro, lost its title as the world's largest stadium following its transfer to an all-seating arrangement in 1999. The current capacity is 92,000, compared to 200,000 beforehand.

All the Rio derbies are held here and the stadium has been witness to a number of historic moments, including the 1950 World Cup Final defeat of Brazil by Uruguay, and Pelé's 1,000th goal.

The stadium is divided into three levels; the arquibancada inferior, arquibancada superior, and the boxes, or camarotes. All three areas are now entirely seated, with the superior level seats having arm rests and the boxes being air-conditioned and equipped with sofas and TVs.

There are plans to extend the roofing to cover 100 percent of the seating in preparation for the 2014 World Cup, with the final itself planned to be held here.

The stadium is open for visits on weekdays from 09:00 to 17:00 (although it closes five hours before kick-off on match days). The tour includes a visit to the Hall of Fame, Photograph Room, the dressing rooms and a walk out onto the famous turf. Individual visits start from Gate 15, from where bilingual guides are available for the tours.

Access to the stadiums

Closest main roads to:

  • Morumbi: Avenida Giovanni Gronchi and Avenida Jorge João Saad (leading to) Avenida Francisco Mourato
  • Pacaembu: Avenida Pacaembu, Avenida Rebouças and Avenida Dr. Arnaldo
  • Parque Antarctica: Avenida Sumaré, Avenida Pompéia and Avenida Francisco Matarazzo
  • Vila Belmiro: Avenida Dr. Waldemar Leão and Avenida Bernardino de Campos ('Canal 2')
  • Maracanã: Avenida Pres. Castelo Branco, Avenida Prof. Manoel de Abreu and Avenida Maracanã

During the São Paulo and Rio local derbies (Clássicos) at Morumbi and Maracanã respectively, the fans are not only segregated inside the stadium, but also outside. Those who have a ticket for one of these games should check the local press on the day of the game to see from which direction they should approach the stadium, depending upon the color coding of the section of the ground they will be sitting in.

At Morumbi, the red and orange sections are approached along Avenida Jorge João Saad, while those with tickets for the blue and yellow sections approach the stadium down Avenida Giovanni Gronchi. At Maracanã, the red, green and blue sections are approached from Avenida Prof. Manoel de Abreu and the yellow and white sections from Avenida Maracanã.

All the stadiums described above are located in residential districts within their respective cities and, as such, options exist to park in parking lots or on the street. Car park prices usually go up on a match day. Each street near to the stadium is operated by an unofficial attendant who will watch the car in return for a tip; some attendants will ask for payment in advance, but it is recommended to arrange to pay on return.

Morumbi is not near a metro station however, the other stadiums in São Paulo and the Maracanã in Rio can be easily accessed by metro.

Ticket Prices and Purchase

Tickets for games usually only go on sale during the week before a game. They may not be purchased online or by telephone, and are available either at the box office of the ground itself, or from one of the clubs' accessories stores in the city or the fan club headquarters. If the game in question is being played between local teams, the opposing team will also sell tickets from their home ground.

Prices vary, depending on the match, and can increase by as much as 50 percent for important games.


Inside the stadiums, a limited selection of refreshments is available, including hot dogs, soft drinks, popcorn and iced lollipops. Alcohol is not available inside the stadiums.


Brazilian football grounds do not have stores selling souvenirs of shirts, mugs, posters or caps. Unofficial salespeople can be found near the stadium selling unofficial club products. Official items can only be found in sports shops or the club stores.

Steve Wingrove - Football Correspondent (2009)