What Is The Most Popular Sport In Brazil?

credit: Yay

Ask most Brazilian sports fanatics, and they’ll insist that sports runs in their veins. While most kids get teddy bears and toys for their fourth birthday, many Brazilian kids get footballs, rugby balls, and other sports equipment. With so much variety, which sport reigns supreme as the most popular in Brazil? 

Football (Soccer) is the favorite among Brazilian people. It has the largest amount of followers on social media and the most active players among other sports. Brazil claimed victory at five FIFA World Cups and qualified for every other World Cup. Children learn to play at three or four years old.

Related: Why Is Brazil So Good At Soccer?

What Is Brazil’s Most Beloved Sport?

Football (Soccer) takes first place as Brazil’s most supported and celebrated sport. Football is more than a sport for many Brazilian fans; it’s a pastime that heavily integrates itself into everyday life and unites families, friends, and colleagues.

The Brazilian Football Confederation (Confederação Brasileira de Futebol) governs the national Brazilian football team, and they receive the most support on social by a large margin. A February 7, 2023 report from Statista shows that soccer has 30 million followers on social media, while second-place Volleyball has 1.8 million.

The Brazil national football team shares the same passion as the rest of the Brazilian population, boasting impressive international successes. They won the FIFA World Cup in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, and 2002. Furthermore, their determination made them the only team to ever qualify for every World Cup.

Statista published a representative online survey on August 29, 2023, that tracked the sports activities of 5910 Brazilian people. It included major activities like Rugby, Volleyball, Cycling, Diving, Cricket, Badminton, and fitness. The top five highest-scoring sports activities were:

  • Soccer: 43%
  • Fitness: 41%
  • Dancing: 29%
  • Cycling: 28%
  • Running & Jogging: 24%

Popular international sports like Rugby (1%),  Cricket (2%),  Badminton (2%), Baseball & Softball (3%), and American Football & Flag Football (4%) ranked much lower.

Brazil’s passion for football is a magical ingredient that nurtures world-renowned players and coaches. They attain great success and lucrative opportunities that ensure a long career in professional soccer. Some of these individuals include:

  • Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima (former professional striker)
  • Manuel Francisco dos Santos (former professional mid-fielder)
  • Roberto Carlos da Silva Rocha (among the greatest fullbacks in history)
  • Romário de Souza Faria (footballer and currently politician)
  • Marta Vieira da Silva (forward, and many consider her the greatest female player in history)
  • Edson Arantes do Nascimento, Pelé (forward, among the best players to grace soccer)

How Did Football Come To Brazil?

A Scottish immigrant, Thomas Donohoe, played the first unofficial football match on Brazilian soil in 1894. He played on a pitch close to his workplace in Bangu. However, Charles Miller, the son of another Scottish expatriate, planted the first seed when he taught football rules to São Paulo players.

Charles founded the first sports club in Brazil in 1888, called São Paulo Athletic Club (Clube Atlético São Paulo).

On December 14, 1901, he founded Brazil’s first football league, Liga Paulista de Foot-Ball, and they played their first championship, Campeonato Paulista, in 1902. It became the first-ever Brazilian football competition in history.

Campeonato Carioca is the present-day Rio de Janeiro State football championship and another football competition from as early as 1906.

The football association Liga Metropolitana de Football (LMF) founded it, and consisted of six clubs from Rio de Janeiro:

  • America
  • Bangu
  • Botafogo
  • Fluminense
  • Paysandu                                                                               
  • Rio Cricket

Why Is Football The Most Popular Sport In Brazil?

For most Brazilians, football is a form of identity and is a maxim for their sociocultural activity. It’s a space that allows them to demonstrate their patriotism, create memories, and experience a real sense of camaraderie.

So great is their devotion that Brazilians call their country “The Country of Football” (o País do Futebol).  

However, this level of success came with its difficulties. Football was initially only for the wealthy, with many clubs having incoming and even racial restrictions.

Since many Brazilians lived in poverty, football was not easily accessible. Other issues like slavery also created social and hierarchical structures that blocked minorities from playing football.

After the abolishment of slavery, individuals started trickling into football clubs. When football gained overwhelming popularity, clubs’ pressure caused them to remove all restrictions. It marked the beginning of Brazil’s football identity.

Today, The Country of Football thrives as new fans join the fray. Restaurants, bars, and sports venues buzz with excitement about upcoming matches, and laughter and shouts of support fill many households, streets, stadiums, and workplaces.

Kids Learn Football At A Young Age

Many Brazilian kids learn football from their fathers at three or four years old. Dad might gift them a soccer ball for their birthday and teach them how to handle it.

When they develop their motor skills and become conscious of handling the ball, the rest is history.

football in indigenous school
Yay Boys playing football in indigenous school in Bahia, Brazil

Some girls also enjoy learning to play football, but most kids are still overwhelmingly boys. Many boys want to be like Ronaldo, Neymar, or Pelé and become successful football players, while others play for enjoyment.

On that note, parents can enroll their kids in special programs that help to develop their soccer abilities and aim to prepare them to pursue a career in professional football. Some of them include:

Escolinhas de Futebol for kids 4 – 14 years old. The program teaches kids about passing, shooting, dribbling, and teamwork. They host school matches and club tournaments, too. The program affiliates with famous clubs like the Corinthians, Palmeiras, Santos, and Flamengo.

Projeto Craque do Futurofor kids 6 – 17 years old. Brazilian footballer Zico established the project in 1996 as a means for low-income communities to play football. Kids can enjoy free classes, nutrition, and psychological counseling. Kids and their families also get health care and academic support.

What Are The Best Places To Watch Football In Brazil?

There are plenty of exciting places in Brazil where football fans can experience the best matches and skilled players.

Maracanã Stadium In Rio de Janeiro

Maracanã Stadium is the most prominent stadium in Brazil, with an impressive capacity that can hold more than 78,000 sports enthusiasts.

Its intended purpose was to host the 1950 FIFA World Cup, which involved the finals between Brazil and Uruguay. They were also the hosts of the 2014 FIFA World Cup final, where Germany defeated Argentina.

Four major clubs call Maracanã Stadium home, namely:

  • Flamengo
  • Fluminense
  • Botafogo
  • Vasco da Gama

Fans who attend the matches here can expect to see much history, emotion, and rivalry among the fans.

Pacaembu Stadium In São Paulo

Pacaembu Stadium carries a traditional flavor among surrounding architecture and atmosphere, dating back to 1940. It can host 37,000 spectators and sits in central São Paulo.

One of the most influential clubs, the Corinthians, also calls it home. Interestingly, fans can explore the Football Museum, which showcases the practice and history of the sport in an interactive way. There are also plenty of intriguing Brazilian memorabilia to appreciate!

Mineirão Stadium In Belo Horizonte

Mineirão Stadium can host 62,000 fans, making it the second-largest stadium in Brazil. It dates back to 1965, but architects overhauled it in preparation for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Two of Brazil’s most celebrated football clubs – Cruzeiro and Atlético Mineiro – call it home. Many fans also remember it as the stadium where Germany beat Brazil 7 – 1 in the 2014 FIFA World Cup semi-final. The atmosphere is usually full of intensity and energy as the fans cheer.

Arena da Baixada In Curitiba

Arena da Baixada is a highly modernized stadium capable of housing 42,000 football fanatics. It dates back to 1999, but like Mineirão Stadium, people renovated it for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Arena da Baixada is home to a youthful and fan-owned club called Atlético Paranaense.

It was built in 1999 and upgraded for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. It is home to Atlético Paranaense, a club known for its youth development and fan ownership. The stadium’s innovative design includes an artificial turf and retractable roof to circumvent the rain.