Patrick Bruha

Patrick Bruha

Staff Writer
The Brazil Business


Crash Course in Brazilian Football

Patrick Bruha

Patrick Bruha

Staff Writer
The Brazil Business


As one of the most important parts of Brazilian culture, football or soccer, in Brazil is a complex matter. With over 120 years of history it is present everywhere and is a huge industry. Therefore, it is helpful to know the important information regarding Brazilian football.

Importance of Football in Brazilian Society

Brazil is the only country to have won five FIFA World Cup titles and has provided football with some of its most talented players in history. Despite a grudge with Argentina over who is the best player in football history, almost all specialized entities and journalists grant this award to Edson Arantes do Nascimento, commonly known as Pelé.

Every four years when the FIFA World Cup happens, football fever in Brazil seems to be multiplied, as almost the entirety of its population stops what they are doing and focuses on the matches and enjoying this event. In fact, most Brazilians are allowed to work part-time or not at all when the National Team plays during the World Cup. During the FIFA 2014 World Cup held in Brazil, municipal governments of some host cities declared a day off when the National Team would be playing in that city.

Brief History of Football in Brazil

Football came to Brazil at the end of the 19th century, in October 1894, when Charles Miller, a young native of the city of São Paulo, came from England with two leather balls. When it arrived here, football was a sport for wealthier people and until 1920, the poorer parts of the Brazilian population as well as the black population could not participate in it. In 1933, with the professionalization of football players in Brazil, this old prejudice started to crumble.

During Getúlio Vargas’ government, a great effort was made to encourage the practice of football in Brazil, the most important example of this was the construction of the Maracanã stadium for the FIFA 1950 World Cup. But it was only after the National Team won the 1958 World Cup that football reached fever pitch in Brazil. In a team led by black players like Didi, Pelé and Garrincha, football became the main element of national identification, since it brings together people of all skin colors, social conditions, faith and different Brazilian regions.

Watching Football Matches

Football matches occupy the prime time of some of Brazil’s main TV channels. The most important matches are scheduled at 10PM on Wednesdays and 4PM on Sundays. During these periods, especially on Sundays, it is common for men to gather around TVs and watch the football match. As it is almost like a habit, Brazilians will watch even the most unattractive games, just so they can watch some football being played.

It is also very common to organize barbecues or other social events around important matches, especially when these are broadcast live. If a full meal was not eaten prior to the beginning of the match, most Brazilians enjoy eating little snacks, such as salted peanuts and drinking beer while they watch football matches. Watching football matches in bars and restaurants is also a common practice, and some will even offer special attractions for particularly interesting matches, like rounds of beers for everyone in the bar if a team scores a goal.


Brazil has 501 professional teams according to CBF, which is the Brazilian Football Confederation. In addition to these, there are 13.000 other amateur teams regularly registered.

Despite FIFA - the Fédération Internationale de Football Association - data stating that there are over 13,2 million football players in Brazil, the number of people who practice it just for fun is approximately 30 million. Of those, 11.000 are federate players and 2.000 play abroad. Brazil has 308 stadiums that equivalates to 5 million seats. Twelve of them have been restored or were newly built for the FIFA 2014 World Cup.

Main Competitions

There are state championships in all 27 Brazilian states. All of them have a first division, while some of them also have second and a third divisions. São Paulo is the only state that has four divisions.

The Brazilian National Soccer Championship, known as Brasileirão, was created in 1971, and also has four divisions, each one composed of 20 clubs. Each division is called “Série”, with the first division called "Série A" with teams playing each other in a double round-robin system. There is also Copa do Brasil, which is a cup championship that brings together the best teams in Brazil in a playoff system.

The best Brazilian teams may take part in two championships with the participation of foreign teams. The most important one is the Copa Libertadores, organized by Conmebol, the South American Football Confederation, which also is responsible for organizing the Copa Sul-Americana. The winner of Copa Libertadores is qualified to participate in the FIFA Club World Club. Although winning a World Cup would be theoretically more important than winning an international championship such as Libertadores, both teams and supporters consider that winning Libertadores is the greater honor.

Information on how to attend football matches in Brazil can be found in this article.

Football and Media

Football is very profitable for TV channels in terms of advertising spots. The largest TV channels battle each other for the right of preference to broadcast a specific championship or a specific match. In fact, TV quotas, as they are called in the football world, constitute the largest part of most team’s revenues nowadays. The largest TV quotas for Brazilian football teams for 2016 will be:

  • Corinthians and Flamengo - BRL 170 million
  • São Paulo - BRL 110 million
  • Vasco and Palmeiras - BRL 100 million
  • Santos - BRL 80 million
  • Cruzeiro, Atlético MG, Botafogo, Fluminense, Grêmio and Internacional - BRL 60 million

The most expensive spots for TV advertising are during prime time games, especially those scheduled at 10:00 PM on Wednesdays, and million dollar contracts of sponsorships are signed with the most popular teams so that a brand can get their logo on a team’s jersey. Depending on the importance of the match, the price of the sponsorship can reach up to BRL 2 million for appearing on the largest spot on the player’s jersey for a single game.


TV quotas are negotiated based mainly on the number of supporters a team has, since it would necessarily translate into a larger audience for these teams’ matches. A list of the 36 largest football teams in Brazil based on the number of supporters can be found in this article.

It is also important to state that there are mainly two different styles of supporters: the casual supporter and the hardcore supporter. Although most part of a team’s supporters are a mix of casual and hardcore, the most hardcore supporters are generally part of a team’s association of football fans.

Since they are the most hardcore supporters, it is not uncommon for quarrels to happen between members of differents associations. These quarrels happen only outside of stadiums, since the government recommends that, in order to avoid violence inside stadiums, supporters of different teams must remain in separate sectors. In the state of São Paulo, for example, it is common for the visiting team’s supporters to have access to only 5% of the stadium’s tickets.

Associations of football fans go beyond supporting the team on football matches. Gaviões da Fiel, the largest association of football fans in Brazil, which supports Corinthians, started as part of a samba school in 1969 and began participating officially in Carnaval parades in 1974. As of the end of 2014, Gaviões da Fiel had over 100.000 affiliates.

Biggest Derbies

In a country where soccer is of such importance, derbies are huge events and fuel discussions for at least three days before and up to one week after the match happened.

Here is a list of the biggest soccer derbies in Brazil, divided in regions.

Southern Region

The matchup of Coritiba and Atlético Paranaense - commonly known as Atletiba - is the most famous in the state of Paraná. Coritiba currently holds the edge, winning 139 matches, against 113 by Atlético Paranaense and 110 draws. The first derby match happened in 1924.

Grêmio and Internacional pair up for the Grenal, the most famous soccer derby in the state of Rio Grande do Sul. Since 1909, these teams have matched up against each other 405 times, with International winning 152 times, against 126 by Grêmio and 127 draws. It is cited by many sports journalists in Brazil and abroad as the biggest soccer derby in Brazil, as it practically divides the state of Rio Grande do Sul in two parts, since in other states there is a higher number of important teams.

Southeastern Region

In the state of Minas Gerais, the most important derby is the Clássico Mineiro. The match between Atlético MG and Cruzeiro started in 1920 and has had 475 matches up to April 2015. Atlético MG won 185 times, against 160 by Cruzeiro and 130 draws.

Both the states of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo are the only states with four large teams each, so there is a larger number of derbies. For being state rivals, matches between these large teams are highly important, but the most important are listed below.

In the state of Rio de Janeiro, and perhaps in Brazil, the most famous derby is the one between Flamengo and Fluminense, called Fla-Flu. In a total of 399 matches, Flamengo currently holds the edge, having won 143 times, while Fluminense won 127 and 129 draws. In 1963, this derby set the world record for the most attendants at a football match, with more than 194.000 supporters at the Maracanã stadium.

In the state of São Paulo, the most famous derby is between Corinthians and Palmeiras, known as Derby Paulista. The first match between these teams was held in 1917, adding up to 347 matches as of April 2015. Palmeiras closely holds the edge, having won 121 times, against 120 by Corinthians and 106 draws. CNN considers the Derby Paulista the ninth most important derby in the world, being the only Brazilian derby in the top 10.

Northern Region

Re-Pa is the name of the most important derby between football clubs in the Brazilian Northern Region. The matchup between Remo and Paysandu, in the state of Pará is perhaps the oldest derby in the world, since these teams have met each other 733 times since its first match, in 1914. Since then, Remo holds the edge, having won 255 matches, against 229 by Paysandu and 249 draws.

Northeastern Region

In the state of Ceará, the Clássico-Rei is the most important derby. Since 1918, Ceará and Fortaleza have played together 552 times, with Ceará being the more victorious, with 188 wins against 169 by Fortaleza and 195 draws.

Ba-Vi, as the derby between Bahia and Vitória is known, is the most important derby in the Northeastern Region, due to both team’s number of supporters. Battling since 1932, these teams have played each other for 471 times. Bahia has won 177 times, while Vitória won 148 times and there have been 146 draws.

In the state of Pernambuco, Sport and Náutico hold the most famous derby, known as Clássico dos Clássicos. Played since 1909, both teams have played 546 times, with 208 wins by Sport, 184 by Náutico and 154 draws.