The Forgotten Father of Brazilian Football
From Paisley to Sao Paulo
Many years ago, it was a Scot, from Paisley, who taught the Brazilians their Samba style of football. Archie McLean was a pioneer of Brazilian football.
Football was introduced to Brazil in 1894 by Charles Miller who, although of Scottish descent, hailed from Southampton
The World Cup is coming around again and sadly, of course, Scotland won’t be lining up in Germany for the kick-off. However, there’s no denying that Scotland has had a huge influence on world football. But, can Scotland really lay claim to giving the Brazilians their Samba skills?
The Scottish Football Museum at Hampden Park in Glasgow has medals and trophies awarded to a little-known footballer called Archie McLean who played for Johnstone and Ayr United in the early 1900’s.
His career in Scottish football was short-lived. Archie worked with a textile company in Paisley, but was transferred to Sao Paulo, Brazil in 1912. He planned on being there for just three months, but stayed for nearly forty years. Johnstone actually retained him as a player under the impression he would return for the 1913 season.
In Sao Paulo, his football career flourished and he became known, on the pitch, as Veadinho; the little deer. Archie McLean is now regarded as the father of Brazilian football.
Richard McBrearty the curator of The Scottish Football Museum tells us: “Within a few months of arriving he set up his own football team; The Scottish Wanderers and they played in the local state league, the Paulista or Sao Paulo State League. This was the league that Pele’s team played in and later the great Santos. He was the classic Scottish outside forward, small, slight of stature, but very quick which the Brazilians liked to see. The other thing that was important about Archie McLean was the type of game he brought to Brazil – the classic Scottish short-passing game. The Brazilians called the style Tabelinha. Within a few years of the short-passing game arriving, Brazil went on to dominate world football”.
Archie McLean died in 1971 at the age of 84 having succumbed to throat cancer. The memories of his life and career in Brazil are treasured by his grandson Malcolm. He tells us: “I lived with Archie, in Paisley, during the school holidays, and got to know Archie really well. He was a very modest man who very rarely talked about his football. He took me to games, it had to be St Mirren, he was a St Mirren fan and I would become a St Mirren supporter. After retiring, he only went back to Brazil once, which I think was in 1964. He was taken to the Sao Paulo stadium where, on being introduced to the crowd, he received a big ovation”.
Malcolm has decided to trace his grandfather’s career all the way back to Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo in Brazil.
Praca Charles Miller is Charles Miller Square, named after the man who brought football to Brazil back in 1894, but it wasn’t until eighteen years later that the famous Samba style Brazilian football was introduced and that was Archie McLean arrived in Sao Paulo.
At the time, Brazilian football was based on the long-ball, kick and rush tactics. Locals watching The Scottish Wanderers were amazed to see a group of foreigners passing and moving with such flair on the field. Archie McLean quickly persuaded the Brazilians to abandon the long-ball style and work on skill and technique, a move that paid off leading to success for Brazil over the years including five world cup victories.
It wasn’t long before Archie McLean was selected to play for higher profile teams like SC Americano, Sao Bento and Sao Paulo Athletic Club (SPAC) where he remained a member for nearly forty years. The club is still going strong today and members still talk of Archie’s influence on the game.
An Entirely Different Game – Aidan Hamilton