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19 June 2014
A beautiful chance

A beautiful chance

It was a Scot who introduced Brazil to football, according to Richard McBrearty, curator of the Scottish Football Museum at Hampden. Last month, McBrearty was in São Paulo for a symposium on football ahead of the World Cup. He believes that Tom Donohue, a factory worker from Busby, was responsible for popularising the game amongst Brazil’s poor as early as 1894.

There is some debate over who can claim responsibility but, regardless, Scots influence on the Brazilian game will be reinforced next month with the publication of a book, From Frontiers to Football: An Alternative History of Latin America, by Dr Matthew Brown, a reader in Latin American History at the University of Bristol.

“Charles Miller claimed to have brought the first footballs to Brazil,” said Brown in a blog post last week after attending the symposium, “stepping off the boat in the port of Santos with a serious expression, his boots, balls and a copy of the FA regulations, ready to change the course of Brazilian history.”

Miller was born in São Paulo to a Scottish father and a Brazilian mother whose surname, Fox, reveals her English origins. “Tom Donohue arrived before Miller,” McBrearty told The Herald, but we cannot quite pinpoint the games that were played with him because they were in Bangu and there was no system of writing down details whereas Miller wrote everything down.”

McBrearty credits Donohue with introducing the game to ‘the street’ and Miller with imposing some sense of order, a view with which Brown agreed: “In Brazilian football historiography, ‘Charles Miller’ has become a cipher for the elite, foreign origins of a game which was subsequently embraced by the Brazilian povo [the people].”

Brown cites yet another Scot for the game’s spread in Latin America: “Something similar is true of Alexander Watson Hutton for Argentina, a more conventional immigrant figure, a Scot who arrived in Buenos Aires as an adult and set about institutionalising and regulating the game of football through schools, teams and leagues.”

This year, Scottish business aims to capitalise on those historic links and the focus on Brazil that the World Cup will inevitably bring. In September, an Aberdeen City Council organised trade mission will visit Rio Grande do Sul, the country’s southernmost state. Brazil is recognised as one of the world’s most rapid developing economies with a GDP greater than India or China.

The UK’s Trade and Investment Minister Lord Green announced a commitment to doubling the UK’s exports with Brazil by 2015. “Brazil is simply too big a market to ignore,” said a UKTI spokesman. “It is the fifth-largest country in the world, with a population of approximately 185 million.

“It has one of the world’s most rapidly developing economies and a GDP per head that is greater than either India or China. It has natural resources in abundance, a developed industrial base, high standards in scientific research and substantial human capital.”

The current value of Scottish exports for the last year we have figures (2011) totalled £435m, with £2.5bn-worth of trade deals signed between Brazilian and UK companies. There are already some 50 Scottish-based companies operating in Brazil and the sheer size of the market is seeing a new spike in levels of interest, most obviously in the energy sector, according to Scottish Development International.

“Brazil now produces over two million barrels of oil per day with a target of 2.5 million by 2015,” said a spokesperson. “This growing industry is home to a huge amount of activity and Scotland’s expertise and experience make Brazil a natural market for ambitious Scottish oil and gas supply chain firms.”

SDI also points to life sciences and biotech opportunities in Brazil: “Trends such as population ageing and growth, growth of the middle class, improvement of the public healthcare system, and development of health insurance, are fuelling the expansion of the life-science sector.”

Last year, the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI) organised a trade mission to São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro focusing on opportunities in food and drink, textiles, renewable energy, tourism, construction, life sciences and education.

The whisky industry is of significant importance in Brazil, said the SCDI. Whisky exports confirm that this emerging market is of interest to Scottish companies; 2011 saw a rise in whisky exports to Brazil by 50 per cent to a value of £4.2bn. The Scottish Whisky Association calculated that the industry makes £125 a second in Brazil. 

There are also significant opportunities in the oil and gas sector in Brazil, said the organisation. A line of credit was opened between Petrobras, Brazil’s multi-energy corporation, and UK financial institutions which will help Scottish oil and gas companies boost their export activity. Petrobras anticipates that it will invest $224bn in oil and gas exploration and development through to 2015, creating significant opportunities for companies operating in this sector.  

“The Brazilian economy has been identified as one of the great new emerging markets which will play an important role in defining a new economic order in the 21st century,” said Siobhan Hazlett, International Trade Executive at the SCDI. “Increased trade with Brazil has become a key priority for governments all around the world.”

With Glasgow and Brazil set to host some of the world’s most prestigious sporting events over the coming years, it is a key time to explore sporting opportunities and potential partnerships between Scotland and Brazil. Major sporting events will increase opportunities for the two to collaborate and expand on their existing trading relationship, said Hazlett.

“At present, 75 per cent of Glasgow 2014 contracts have been awarded to Scottish companies and there is potential for Scottish companies to tap into the global sports industry which will be worth $145bn by 2015. Scottish companies will benefit from the increased trade opportunities derived from Glasgow 2014’s economic legacy.

“Looking beyond the international sports market, there are exciting opportunities for Scottish companies across a vast range of sectors, including in automotive components, electronics, machinery, food and drink, chemicals, telecommunications, engineering, education and training, and energy.”

The trade mission followed a four-day visit to Porto Alegre, Rio de Janiero and São Paulo by then Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore: “There are big opportunities for Scotland to do business in Brazil,” he said. “Our expertise in areas such as energy are highly sought after in Brazil’s emerging oil industry. Combining UK influence and Scottish excellence gives us the best of both worlds as we try to do business with Brazil that will create jobs back at home.” 

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