Exeter City celebrate unlikely first Brazil game
A century of samba football, which began when an English team turned up unexpectedly in Rio de Janeiro in 1914 and took on a cobbled-together 'Brazil' side, was remembered in a celebratory match at the same stadium today.
Exeter City were the team 100 years ago, on an unlikely tour of Argentina and just weeks before the outbreak of World War One, when they stopped off in Rio.
On July 21, 1914, a mixture of players from that city and Sao Paulo were brought together to form "Brazil", in what is recognised as that country's first international fixture.
On Sunday, present-day Exeter City, the team from the south west of England who languish in League Two (fourth tier) of English football, turned the clock back to draw 0-0 with Fluminense's Under-23s.
The English side were unlucky to have two goals disallowed in a competitive game at the majestic old Laranjeiras stadium but manager Paul Tisdale said they did their predecessors proud.
"It was one of the most enjoyable games of football I've ever been involved in," Tisdale said.
"It's only our second pre-season game and we're not ready to play flat out but we did very well. We knew how to respect the occasion but we knew when to play football. If one team had won it would have been unfair."
More than 600 invited guests, around 150 of them Exeter fans, watched the match almost 100 years to the day since the last historic meeting.
"It was the first time a Brazilian team was formed by players from Sao Paulo and Rio," said Aidan Hamilton, author of a new book on the game, entitled "Have You Ever Played Brazil?"
Exeter were then in the lower reaches of the Southern League. They planned a month-long tour to Argentina and added a three-game stop-off in Rio at the end of the trip.
Football had been introduced to Brazil two decades previously by Charles Miller, son of a Scotsman, but although the sport had taken off in Rio and Sao Paulo, players from both cities had not yet joined forces to form a national side.
Brazil had arranged an international against Argentina in two months time and were eager to test their best players ahead of the match.
They tried to form a Brazilian side with players from both cities but there was a scheduling conflict and so no Sao Paulo players appeared in Exeter's first game against Inglezes do Rio (the English of Rio), Hamilton said.
Exeter won that match 3-0 and played a Rio select side the next day, winning 5-3 in front of a big crowd that included sailors from the SS Glasgow berthed nearby.
Former Liverpool player Harry Welfare, who played for both Fluminense and Vasco, got a hat-trick for the home side.