São Paulo Feature
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Brazilians are so passionate about futebol (soccer) that popular wisdom says there are three subjects—soccer, women, and religion—not to be discussed at a bar table among friends, to avoid quarrels. Of these, soccer is surely the most important. The sport, which arrived in Brazil in 1894 with immigrant British railroad workers, is as central to Brazilian culture as samba and the beach.
Soccer is the national passion in no small part thanks to Brazil's world-champion status in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, and 2002. The greatest Brazilian soccer players—such as "King" Pelé, as he was known in the 1960s and '70s—are seen as gods, and are treated like royalty. Soccer stars in Brazil are probably more famous than the country's president.
The king of the ball in Brazil today is Ronaldo, who in 1994, at age 17, joined the World Cup team. He didn't play in that game, but went on to score 42 goals in the next two years, in only 13 matches. Shortly afterward he went to play in Europe, but remained an idol in Brazil, where he is known as "The Phenomenon," and is still a hot item in the press, both for his spectacular performances and his tabloid-worthy personal life.
Many lesser stars bring Brazilians to tears and shouts of joy every Sunday afternoon in thrilling games that can be watched live in the fields or on TV. And though soccer reigns supreme in Brazil, you don't have to be royalty to afford a game—even at the world's largest soccer stadium, Maracanã, in Rio, admission is just US$2.
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