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Last Updated: Monday, 3 December 2007, 10:33 GMT
Tim Vickery column
By Tim Vickery
South American football reporter

Kaka is the latest Brazilian star to take the game by storm

Seventy five years ago this week one of the most important games in the history of football took place.

On 4 December 1932 Brazil won 2-1 away to Uruguay. It was the day the torch passed from one team to the other, and set Brazil on the path to dominating the global game.

Back then, in 1932, Brazil were nothing special. Of the first 12 Copa Americas they had only won two, both with home advantage. Uruguay had won six, but their fame had spread way beyond their own continent.

The Sky Blues had practically kick-started the modern game into existence when they won the gold medal at the 1924 Olympics with an artistic style of play the Europeans had never seen before.

They won another gold four years later, by which time it was becoming clear that football had outgrown the Olympics. A World Cup was needed.

Uruguay put themselves forward to host it, and won that as well - two and half years before that fateful visit of Brazil.

In truth, 1932 was a good time to face Uruguay. The team which had won all those titles had grown old together, and the greats such as Scarone and Andrade were no longer playing for the national side.

And the long-term crown of the "kings of football" was always more likely to belong to Brazil rather than Uruguay. The huge difference in population between the two countries made it inevitable - as long as Brazil made this difference work in its favour by drawing on the talent available from all sectors of society.

Once money is at stake, the door is open to the best players, whatever their background

This is the importance of that match in 1932. The game and its consequences effectively put an end to the attempts of the Brazilian elite to keep football to themselves and ensured that it would be the sport of the masses.

The outstanding players in the Brazil team that day were Domingos da Guia, an elegant defender who developed the art of bringing the ball out from the back, and Leonidas da Silva, the rubber-limbed striker who scored both the goals.

Both were young players - Domingos was winning his second cap, Leonidas was making his debut - and both were black.

Black players had been making progress in Brazilian football - greatly inspired by the example of Uruguay's Isabelino Gradin, who played in Brazil in the 1919 Copa America. But all sorts of barriers were placed in their way.

In 1921 Brazil's president Epitacio Pessoa intervened to ensure that black players were not selected for that year's Copa America.

After Domingos and Leonidas had helped beat the world champions on their own patch, it was much harder to exclude black players - and when professionalism was introduced, it became all but impossible.

Once money is at stake, the door is open to the best players, whatever their background.

Pele benefited from the changes to the Brazilian game

And professionalism was introduced in Brazil - despite fierce opposition from the pro-amateur elite - in no small part as a consequence of that match in December.

Uruguay's clubs had recently turned professional. The two young jewels in the Brazil side had shown what they could do on the pitch at the Centenario stadium, and so the two Montevideo giants swooped with appetising offers. Penarol signed up Leonidas, Nacional did the same with Domingos.

It forced Brazil to bow to the inevitable. If the clubs were not to lose their best players, then they too would have to turn professional. So the change was made. Players could make a living from their ability on the football field.

Without this, there is no Pele. And this is not just about black players. It means that Zico, son of a poor Portuguese immigrant, could rise in society as a result of football. Or that an upper-middle-class kid such as Kaka would choose the game as his career instead of following in his father's footsteps and become an engineer.

The parade of Brazilian stars goes on and on - and they can trace their roots back 75 years, to a 2-1 win over Uruguay on 4 December 1932.

You can put your questions to Tim Vickery every week on the World Football Phone-in on Radio 5 Live's Up All Night programme from 0230 to 0400 GMT every Saturday. You can also download last week's World Football Phone-in Podcast.


Got a question about South American football for Tim Vickery? Email him at

American side DC United are reportedly very close to signing Juan Sebastian Veron. Has age completely caught up with him now, or do you think he will still be an effective player in the US?
Rob Bartlett

He can still play - he came back to Estudiantes from Inter Milan because he wanted to - and he took them to the Argentine title a year ago and was in fair form for Argentina a few months back in the Copa America. If he goes, I think he would probably be a sensation in the MLS.

His relationship with Estudiantes seems to have become very strained. There are political questions, and there's also the fact that the club have sold some of the key players who were in that title-winning team.

But they are back in the Copa Libertadores, South America's Champions League, which gets under way at the start of next year.

It would be great to see him play in the competition, so I hope he can smooth over his problems with the club, for a few months at least, and turn out in the Libertadores before heading north.

A few years ago I watched a young Colombian called Jhonnier Montano in a youth tournament in Toulon and he seemed destined for big things. I know he transferred to Parma soon afterwards, what happened to him? James Sweeney

I remember listening to him speak in the press conference after he had scored a goal against Argentina in the 1999 Copa America. He was 16, so full of left-footed talent and so composed that I was convinced we were witnessing the birth of a new star.

What happened next is a cautionary tale of the dangers of moving to Europe too soon.

Parma picked him up, loaned him here, loaned him there, he spent a lot of time on the bench or in the stands and his career lost all momentum. He put on weight and cut a sad figure when he moved back to Colombian football.

This year there has been a mini comeback in Peruvian football with Sport Boys. At the end of the year he's lined up to move to Universidad San Martin, also of Peru, who have qualified for the Libertadores, so that might give him the platform to announce that he has come through the wilderness years.

Kaka named Europe's best player
02 Dec 07 |  Football


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