“I have written more than 100 books. Still, he is known in the country as his father. Neto, a Brazilian, is a writer, a poet, a politician. But his son, a footballer, was a nation’s sensation.
Brazil is the team that most people think of when they hear World Cup football. Since 1938, Brazil is the only team that has won every tournament since 1938. It is the only team that has been present in every World Cup. How many players? How many heroes?
Although Brazilian football has a great story to tell, it was in the late 1900s that football became a wave in Brazil. It was only in 1914 that a football confederation was formed in Brazil. A national team followed. When the first World Cup came around in 1930, Brazil was hardly a footballing power. In fact, Brazil would not have been present in the first World Cup if the venue had been any other European country instead of Uruguay.
It has been 20 years since Brazil won a World Cup title. Brazil is coming to Qatar aiming for another World Cup title. Leonidas, Pele, Garincha, Ronaldo and Neymar, the first name of the Brazilian World Cup football legends, but not many people are likely to know.
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In the first World Cup in 1930, their dog and striker Pragunjo was the top scorer in the first tournament for them. The owner of the first goal scored in the World Cup for Brazil is no one else. In the first match against Yugoslavia, the Brazilian team came to the ground with the flag of Uruguay as the host for the support of the spectators, but within 30 minutes they were behind 2-0. Praguinho scored the first goal of the World Cup for Brazil in the 62nd minute, but the team lost 2-1. 6 days later, Praguenho scored two more goals in a 4–0 win over Bolivia to take his tally to three.
Brazil was destined to be eliminated in the first round when Yugoslavia won both of its games in the group match. Before the World Cup, the cold war between the Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo Football Associations prevented Brazil from fielding the best team and completely ignoring the best black players. With the Sao Paulo Association banning their players, the responsibility for the Brazil team, which was without key players, rested entirely on Pragunho’s shoulders.
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Before becoming a football star, Pragunho, who was a champion in the 600m swimming race in Rio de Janeiro at the age of 18, then repeated the feat twice and completed a hat-trick. Not only in football and swimming, but also in basketball, diving, roller hockey, rowing, table tennis, latex, volleyball and water polo, Pragunjo was a unique personality.
It was big news when his club Fluminense erected a statue in memory of Pregueño, who died aged 74 in 1979. Pragunjo played for Fluminense from 1925 to 1938 and scored 184 goals for them. Pregueño, who won 7 titles for the club in his 14-year career, gave the club membership to his soon-to-be-born son while his wife Maria was pregnant, and in 1933, when the club reached professional level, declared that he was not playing for the money, and was a testament to his commitment to his own team.
A long line of players, including Leonidas and Cicinho, who came later, were there to strengthen Brazil’s World Cup hopes in every World Cup. The 2022 World Cup is also Brazil’s World Cup superstar journey from Pregueño to Neymar.
Last Updated Aug 31, 2022, 7:22 PM IST