The Invention of the Beautiful Game: Football and the Making of Modern Brazil

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Although the popular history of Brazilian football narrates a story of progress toward democracy and inclusion, it does not match the actual historical record. Instead, football can be understood as an invention of early twentieth century middle-class and wealthy Brazilians who called themselves sportsmen and nationalists, and used the sport as part of their larger campaigns to shape and reshape the nation. In this cross-cutting cultural history, Gregg Bocketti traces the origins of football in Brazil from its elitist, Eurocentric identity as foot-ball at the end of the nineteenth century to its subsequent mythologization as the specifically Brazilian futebol, o jogo bonito (the beautiful game). Bocketti examines the popular depictions of the sport as having evolved from a white elite pastime to an integral part of Brazil's national identity known for its passion and creativity, and concludes that these mythologized narratives have obscured many of the complexities and the continuities of the history of football and of Brazil. Mining a rich trove of sources, including contemporary sports journalism, archives of Brazilian soccer clubs, and British ministry records, and looking in detail at soccer's effect on all parts of Brazilian society, Bocketti shows how important the sport is to an understanding of Brazilian nationalism and nation building in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.