A brief history of cricket in Brazil
Cricket in Brazil began in the mid-1800s in Rio de Janeiro, during a period when a portion of the city’s population was British or of British descent. By the early 1860s, a number of cricket clubs were in operation, including the British CC, Artisan Amateurs CC, Rio British CC, Anglo-Brazilian CC and the British and American Club, although its playing facilities were limited to makeshift open spaces. Rio’s Brazilian residents at the time had little or no interest in sport of any kind.
Beginning in 1860, as part of a much-needed beautification programme for the city, Emperor Dom Pedro II created several new parks, including a large grassed area in front of his daughter Princess Isabel’s house, on Rua Paysandu in the Laranjeiras district. Due to good relations between the British community and the Brazilian monarchy, this space eventually became the country’s first proper cricket ground, and hosted cricket, tennis and bowls matches for many years. Princess Isabel and her father were frequent spectators, and often called upon to present trophies to the winners.
In 1872, George Cox formed the Rio Cricket Club, which soon began using the field as its home. In the early 1880s, George’s son Oscar organized Brazil’s first football games on this same ground. In 1889,Brazil became a Republic and Princess Isabel was forced to move from her residence. The cricket ground was taken over by the new government, and although the sport was allowed to continue for a time, a permanent facility was now required.
In 1897, the newly renamed Rio Cricket and Athletic Association purchased a large property in Niterói, on the other side of Guanabara Bay. A cricket ground was built and hosted its first match on June 19, 1898. Cricket would continue to be played on this ground for the next 97 years. The local British population declined steadily through the twentieth century and cricket at the club faded away. Today the Rio Cricket ground is used almost exclusively for football. During those early days of cricket in Rio de Janeiro, the sport was also springing up at British sports clubs elsewhere in the country, including: the São Paulo Athletic Club in São Paulo (founded in 1888); the Santos Athletic Club in São Paulo (1899); Clube Internacional de Cricket and Club de Cricket Victoria, both in Salvador, Bahia (both founded in 1899); and the British Country Club in Recife, Pernambuco (1920). Teams and grounds were also created at the British-owned Morro Velho mine just outside of Belo Horizonte in Minas Gerais (1887), and at the Frigorífico Anglo plant in Barretos,São Paulo(1913), where cricket was played until the mid-1990s. Cricket was also played at the Fazenda dos Ingleses in Caraguatatuba, on the coast of São Paulo, from 1927 until the Second World War.
It was in São Paulo, however, where the sport really took hold, and the São Paulo Athletic Club (SPAC) remains an important venue for Brazilian cricket to this day. In 1894, Charles Miller, the Brazilian-born son of British parents, returned from his studies in England with a football and some cricket equipment, which he immediately used to introduce these sports to the locals. In 1888, the São Paulo Athletic Club was formed, and Charles was a key member, organizing São Paulo’s first football and cricket matches at the club’s ground in the Consolação district. Football soon caught on, and Charles is known throughout the country as the father of Brazilian football. From 1928 to 1947 the club’s cricket matches were held at a ground in Pirituba, before moving to the current site in Veleiros (Santo Amaro), which also houses a collection of Brazilian cricket memorabilia.
In 1922, the Brazil Cricket Association (BCA) was formed, with R.A. Brooking as its first President. The member clubs were Rio Cricket, the Pernambuco Athletic Club, Santos Athletic Club, São Paulo Athletic Club and the Paysandu Cricket Club. The BCA helped continue the series of matches that had been held between these clubs for many years, as well as interstate and international games. In fact, matches between São Paulo and Rio began in 1878 and continued regularly until 1995. After a hiatus, they recommenced in 2012.
As cricket in Rio de Janeiro faded from the scene, it was left to São Paulo to carry the torch at SPAC until 1989, when the Brasília Cricket Association (ABRAC) was formed which fields men’s and women’s teams. In 1999 in Curitiba, Paraná, HSBC Bank built a cricket ground at its staff sports facility, which is home to Curitiba cricket. Then in 2011, the Carioca Cricket Club was founded and breathed new life into cricket in Rio. Most recently, the Minas Gerais Cricket Club in Belo Horizonte, and Poços de Caldas Cricket, also in Minas, both formed in 2013.
To keep pace with this rejuvenation of cricket activity in Brazil, the national Associação Brasileira de Cricket (ABC) was founded in 2001, and Brazil became an affiliate member of the ICC in 2003. The ABC’s continuing goal is to grow the game throughout the country, particularly among Brazilians themselves.