If it is undisputed that football, as we know it today, originated in England in the 19th century, there are also records of scholars who looked for similar origins in recreational practices with ball among indigenous groups located on several continents. Anthropologists such as Lévi-Strauss underlined values in indigenous peoples that were inverse to those of modern sports, since in many of the rituals he observed in his fieldwork, games did not aim at victories or the individual overcoming of a competitor over the opponent. In such tournaments, the starting point was a situation of inequality between the teams and ended only when the two parties in dispute were, so to speak, “tied”.
In 1922, the Parecis people, from Mato Grosso, were invited to play at the Laranjeiras stadium, and played against well-known teams from Rio de Janeiro. The indigenous presence in the capital of the Republic aroused local curiosity, and several newspapers and illustrated magazines documented the fact, in their view exotic and unusual, with reports and images. Today, instead of just joining the force of predominantly “white” professional football, with its spectacular televised mega-events, the Amerindian populations have sought to organize their own tournaments, such as the World Games of Indigenous Peoples. This competition was created in Palmas, Tocantins, in 2015. As in the Olympic Games, it brings together thousands of athletes and dozens of countries, competing in various modalities, ranging from football to archery, and from this to log racing and xikunahati. The latter is a traditional sporting practice among indigenous peoples of Mato Grosso, in which only the use of the ball is allowed with the head, and the entire dynamics of the game depends on the header.
Aldeia Ipatse, Terra Indígena do Xingu, etnia Kuikuro, Alto Xingu, set. 2017. Photograph: Helio Carlos de Mello | Projeto Xingu – Unifesp.
Aldeia Uyapiyuku, Terra Indígena do Xingu, etnia Mehinako, Alto Xingu, set. 2014. Photograph: Helio Carlos de Mello | Projeto Xingu – Unifesp
Aldeia Moyngo, Terra Indígena do Xingu, etnia Ikpeng, Médio Xingu, out. 2012. Photograph: Helio Carlos de Mello | Projeto Xingu – Unifesp.
Aldeia Arayo, Terra Indígena do Xingu, etnia Ikpeng, Médio Xingu, nov. 2014. Photograph: Helio Carlos de Mello | Projeto Xingu – Unifesp.
Film based on photos from the Jogos Mundiais dos Povos Indígenas (Palmas, Tocantins, 2015), bringing together 24 Brazilian and 23 foreign ethnicities. The records were produced by the staff of the Football Museum Reference Center.
Video: CRFB Team | CRFB-Football Museum Collection
Editing: Mira Filmes