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Charles Miller
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CHARLES MILLER
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Charles Miller was the Scottish/Brazilian sportsman, who is considered to be the "father of football" in Brazil.
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Born in São Paulo to John Miller, a Scottish railway engineer and Brazilian mother of English descent, Carlotta Fox - in 1884 Charles was sent to Banister Court school in Southampton where he learnt to play football and cricket. 
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It was while still at school that Charles Miller had first encountered the Corinthians. For the closing game of the 1891/92 season the Corinthians had travelled to the south coast to play against a Hampshire county XI. They arrived a man short and a local teacher pushed forward a precocious young talent, suggesting that he could complete the Corinthians squad - that boy, of course, was Charles Miller. 
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Charles Miller

Charles Miller (sitting far right), Corinthian and "Father of Football" in Brazil at Banister Court School. 

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At 17, playing alongside the greatest icons of the day must have been an incalculable thrill. Taking his place on the left wing, the side included Wreford-Brown, C.B. Fry and G.O. Smith - the equivalent of a schoolboy being plucked from obscurity to play alongside Messi and Ronaldo today. And his fairy tale didn't end there - he also won stand-out praise in the match reports after their 1-0 victory.

The Corinthians were clearly impressed too. When they met Miller a second time, when he was by now representing Hampshire - in a 6-3 defeat for the county in March 1894 - the Corinthian stars were informed that it would be his last game in the UK before returning to the country of his birth, where his father worked as a rail engineer. On hearing this, the side gifted him two footballs to take on his travels - it was a gesture that Charles Miller never forgot.

With these iconic Corinthian footballs, Charles Miller is said to have introduced Brazil to the Beautiful Game. Forming a team in his hometown of São Paulo, the São Paulo Athletic Club, he soon had a few sides competing against one another in his "Liga Paulista", the first football league in Brazil. And with him as striker, SPAC won the first three championships in 1902, 1903 and 1904. Today he is heralded as the "father of football" in Brazil.

 

Charles Miller (sat center with ball), with his SPAC side.

 

When Miller discovered that the Corinthians were sailing for Rio in 1910, he immediately contacted Oscar Cox, of the Fluminense club organising the trip, requesting some fixtures in São Paulo too. It was as important an eleventh hour call as there has ever been. 

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São Paulos famous "Paulista Avenue" - far quieter yet as it was in 1910.

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In 1910, São Paulo was not the city it is today. It was in a period of rapid growth following the development of the coffee bean industry in the late 19th century but it wasn't until 1928 that São Paulo reached its first million inhabitants. In becoming a national metropolis, the coffee business had attracted many immigrants from both Italy and the UK - both of which contributed greatly to the development of football in the city, once Charles Miller had sown the initial seeds.

Having swept aside all before them in Rio, including the first ever Brazilian national side (5-2) - The Corinthians arrived in São Paulo on August 30th and were triumphantly welcomed at the Luz station by both the board of the Paulista League and hundreds of sportsmen and representatives of the states' important clubs.

The first game in the city was on August 31st against a team known as Associação Atlética das Palmeiras, although they were no relation to the present day Palmeiras side of São Paulo today. 

 

The Corinthians posing before playing Palmeiras, 1910.

 

It was a hot and sticky Wednesday and the local newspaper reported that the amount of people on the streets, walking towards the Velodromo - where the game was to be played - had only previously been seen for a protest march! The scene was that of a festival - "Gigs went to and fro carrying passengers. There were also private cars, straw hats, blasting of horns and French perfume in the air. An extremely fashionable event, that first Corinthian game on Paulista ground. To watch football was 'the thing to do'".

Palmeiras were the 1910 Paulista State Champions and proved a far greater challenge than anything the Corinthians had experienced in Rio. The Velodromo pitch was small and hard and made the game all the more tricky for the Englishmen, who managed a narrow 2-0 victory.

The second game was also played at the Velodromo, against Paulistano, and such was the club's notoriety in the city by then that the match was filmed for posterity. 

The Corinthians hit their stride and I.E. Snell hit four in a 5-0 victory. The scenes must have played well at the local cinema as the footage from the match was shown to sold out crowds for days afterwards with queues said to have circled around blocks as the locals watched with awe at the Corinthian's skill. It was the first film of football in Brazil ever to have existed and it captured the imagination of the city's population.

And most crucially, it captured the imagination of five railway workers of the São Paulo Railway or more precisely Joaquim Ambrose, Anthony Pereira, Rafael Perrone, Anselmo Correia and Carlos Silva. 

After watching the game, they were sure they should form their own club. Unheard of at the time - for football was only for the upper classes in Brazil. Yet they had a collective dream and after meeting the next day, on September 1st, on Rua dos Imigrantes, under a gas light in the Bom Retiro region of São Paulo - they agreed to form a side together. 

 

SC Corinthians Paulista, SCCP, Timao, Corinthians, Archive, Corinthian FC

The Corinthian side ahead of facing Charles Millers SPAC XI

  

With the plan agreed, they went to watch the final game of the Corinthians' tour, against Charles Miller's own side São Paulo Athletic Clube (SPAC). Ten thousand spectators watched as the three-time state champions took on the tourists. Corinthian built up a 7-0 lead by half time - with SPAC rallying in the second half and Charles Miller himself scoring one of two goals to make the final score 8-2. Embracing at the final whistle, Morgan-Owen was reported of saying to Miller "Charlie, you've done an excellent job. You should be proud of your young Brazilian players, who have a lot of talent."

It was after this final match that the five railway workers approached Miller to ask his advice on their idea of a team, which still needed a name... Miller suggested very politely, as was his habit, to call it in honour of the English team they so admired. In unison, the five "first Corinthianos" exclaimed: "It's name will be - Sport Clube Corinthians Paulista!" - the Corinthians of São Paulo. History had been made.

SC Corinthians Paulista played their first ever match just six days later, on September 10th, 1910. They quickly grew and won their first state championship in 1914. Over the next century, they became the largest and most successful club in Brazil; twice winning the FIFA World Club Championship in 2001 and 2012, their new stadium playing host to the opening ceremony of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Indeed, with over 30 million fans they are the most fanatically supported club in Brazil.

 

SC Corinthians Paulista winning the 2012 FIFA World Championship

 

And all the while, they continue to have great love and respect for the English team which inspired them over 100 years ago. Those 15 Corinthians who arrived with the game only played by the social elite, on request of Charles Miller and inspired a side who would bring the Beautiful Game to the masses. The country - having won 5 FIFA World Cups - and South America as a whole - would never be the same again.

Miller meanwhile, continued to play cricket and golf in later life.

In 1939, on perhaps his last return to England, on the 4th of February, he was nearly killed in the first IRA bombing on the mainland; his daughter stopped to  window shop just seconds before the bomb went off on the steps to the nearby underground station at Leicester Square. 

He eventually died though on 30 June 1953 in São Paulo, and is buried in the Protestant cemetery there. He left two children, Carlos and Helena who he had had with his wife, the renowned pianist, Antonietta Rudge, who he divorced in the late 1920's.

Charles Miller - a Corinthian who's legacy is still as keenly felt today as ever. An incredible sporting life, he had an astonishing impact on the sporting and social life of an entire continent. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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