THE beautiful game might have been going through an ugly time in Southampton recently, but the city has a unique claim to fame in the world of football.
Hampshire has links with many individuals who have had an impact on the football world over the years, but perhaps none more so than Charles William Miller.
Mark Pitchforth, the archivist at Hampshire Record Office in Winchester, has been undertaking some research on this remarkable player from the early part of the last century.
Mark said: “It is amazing to think, but Brazil, the country now so synonymous with the beautiful game, didn’t even play football until little more than 100 years ago and it was Charles Miller, having learnt to play in Southampton, who started the revolution.’’ Charles Miller was born on November 24, 1874, in Sao Paulo to a Brazilian mother of English descent, Carlota Fox, and a Scottish father, John, who along with 3,000 other British workers had gone to South America to work on a major railway construction project.
In 1884 Charles was sent to England to be educated at Banister Court in Southampton, and his name can be found on the school’s 1891 census return, as a boarder.
Banister Court was a small private school founded by the Rev George Ellaby, initially to offer education to the sons of Peninsular Steam Navigation Company captains.
By the time Charles Miller arrived, it was being run by George’s son, Christopher Ellaby, a keen footballer who had captained his college team during his time at Oxford. The new headmaster was quick to pass on this enthusiasm to his pupils.
After Christopher Ellaby’s retirement in 1927, Banister Court closed down and was later demolished.
Mark said: “Being a skilled athlete, Charles Miller took to this new game of football instantly and soon became captain of the school team “Slightly-built, he earned himself the nickname Nipper, but his size didn’t stop him becoming a prolific centre forward and sprightly winger.
“He went on to play for and against both the famous Corinthians, a team formed of players invited from public schools and universities, and St Mary’s Church of England Young Men’s Association, now better known as Southampton Football Club.’’ With his education complete, Miller returned to Brazil in 1894, taking with him a football, a pair of boots and a rulebook.
Developing new rules for the game among the community in Sao Paulo, he was involved in setting up Sao Paulo Athletic Club (SPAC) and the Liga Paulista, Brazil’s first football league.
His days in Southampton gave Miller an advantage over the other less experienced players, and with him as striker, SPAC won the first three league titles from 1902 to 1904.
Throughout his life Miller maintained close ties with English football.
Teams from Southampton and Corinthians Club travelled to Brazil to play against SPAC and other teams in Sao Paulo.
After a Corinthians tour in 1910 a new team in Brazil adopted the name of Corinthians after a suggestion from Miller, and this team still exists in Brazil’s top division today.
Charles Miller died on June 30, 1953, having seen Brazil host its first World Cup in 1950.
Mark said: “It was not until 1958 that the country won the first of its five titles, but Charles Miller had the satisfaction of seeing the amazing growth of the sport he himself introduced just half a century earlier.”
Hampshire Record Office will be holding a free family event, Football Crazy, celebrating the game’s history in Hampshire, in the form of an exhibition and film show, on Wednesday, August 26, and Saturday, August 29, beginning at 10am and 2pm. Children must be aged six or over and accompanied by an adult.