I ripped through this book as it was so interesting. Whenever I go to watch Southampton play at St. Mary's stadium, I pass a painting of Charles Miller, the subject of this book, on the bridge which spans the railway line adjacent. The caption underneath states that "Charles Miller took football to Brazil and the rest is history." This book is largely to do with this man who , although born in Brazil, was educated in Southampton where he developed an enthusiasm for the sport of football in the 1890's. Before returning to South America, be played several games for St. Mary's, the team who later evolved into Southampton FC as well as the "gentlemen amateurs", The Corinthians. This provides much of the interest for me , both as a supporter and someone with an interest in Victorian football.
I think that potential buyers need to be made aware of the way that the author has tackled his subject. Despite the picture of Pele on the cover, the book does not go this far forward in time and it is probably fair to say that a good 50% of the book does not cover football at all. Instead, Miller is put into context of how the provincial back-water of Sao Paulo eventually grew into one of the biggest cities on the planet. There is much about the involvement of the British community in the latter half of the 19th century who established commerce in San Paulo and eventually constructed the railway that opening the town up to the rest of the world. The evolution of football is seen in this context. Therefore, we learn about the various ex-pat teams who, inspired by the example of Charles Miller, took up the game and how the Brazilians became captivated but it and reinvented the sport in their own image. Towards the end of the book, we learn how misfortune overtook Miller and his rather sad demise. Unfortunately, there is little autobiographical detail and this would have very much added to our appreciation of the man.
All in all, I felt that this book was impossible to put down. It is an extremely enjoyable read but it is as much about the emergence of Brazil as a modern country in the 20th Century as it is about the world's most favourite games. As far as Pele is concerned, he probably only gets a couple of mentions in passing! Still, an essential read for those from the red and white half of Hampshire!