Arthur Friedreich: The Original Black Pearl

Arthur Friedenreich, a man of mixed European and African-Brazilian ancestry, was Brazil's first footballing superstar; as the finest player of his generation. Take a look at his life story.

Abhishek Singh

@Abhishek-singh

Updated: Jun 5th 21

4 min read / 124 views

Football, which was first introduced to the country in 1894 by Charles Miller, the son of a British railway engineer and an Anglo-Brazilian mother, was once the exclusive domain of the country's wealthy white elite. It was an exclusive game for a select few of superior social status, and it was played in the gentlemen's sports clubs of the British, German, and American immigrant groups. Arthur Friedenreich, a man of mixed European and African-Brazilian ancestry, was Brazil's first footballing superstar; as the finest player of his generation, he helped define not only the beautiful game but also a nation and what it means to be Brazilian.

 

Arthur Friedenreich was a Brazilian professional footballer who played as a forward from 18 July 1892 to 6 September 1969. He was known as The Tiger or The Original "Black" Pearl, and he is widely regarded as the sport's first outstanding mixed-race player. He played during the amateur era of Brazilian football, which lasted until 1933. He is occasionally referred to as one of football's all-time leading scorers, though this is very debatable.

 

On the corner of Vitoria and Triunfo streets, Arthur Friedenreich was born in 1892. Oscar's father was a German businessman, and Mathilde was an Afro-Brazilian. In the early 1900s, 'blacks' were not allowed to play football, thus his parentage was crucial. Football was the exclusive domain of the upper-class white elite. Because of his white characteristics, Friedenreich was allowed to play. He had a privileged childhood, attending prestigious schools and colleges and frequenting the exclusive German immigrant sports club SC Germania. Friedenreich began playing matches for SC Germania's first team in Sao Paulo's official football league, of which the club was a founding member when he was 17 years old. He spent the next few years playing for Ypiranga, Paulistano, and the Mackenzie College squad, among other teams in the city.

 

Arthur Friedenreich became the first black man to play professional football in Brazil shortly after that. Friedenreich was traded between the finest professional teams in Brazil for the following twenty-six years, including Paulistano, São Paulo, Atlético Mineiro, and Flamengo. From 1918 through 1929, he spent the majority of his time with Paulistano. Nine times in the Liga Paulista, he was named the top scorer. Friedenreich scored thirty-three goals in 1921, perhaps his greatest season.

 

In 1916, the first South American Championship was held, and Friedenreich was selected to represent Brazil. The team travelled to Buenos Aires, where they competed in a round-robin format against Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile, finishing third after two draws and a loss to champions Uruguay. Friedenreich had just one goal from the tournament. He scored the game-winning goal in the Copa America final versus Uruguay in 1919, in which Brazil won 1-0. Friedenreich's boot was paraded around the streets of Rio as a result of the statewide celebrations. Everyone wanted to see Friedenreich play, therefore Paulistano was invited to play friendlies all throughout South America. Friedenreich astonished fans in Europe in 1927, 18 years after his debut, as Paulistano became the first Brazilian team to tour Europe.

 

His national team success was hampered by the Selecao selection committee's decision in 1921 to exclude all black players from the roster. The Copa América was a yearly event at the time, so Friedenreich would get another chance soon. The event was contested in Rio more in 1922. Friedenreich, on the other hand, only appeared in two of Brazil's five games this time for unknown reasons and failed to score. In 1925, El Tigre competed in the Copa del Rey for the final time, in what would be his final international event.   Friedenreich scored once in the tournament, in a 2-2 draw with Argentina in the final match, which gave Argentina the point they needed to secure the cup.

 

He played club football in Brazil until 1935 when he resigned at Flamengo at the age of 43. Arthur was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease after he retired, and the therapy cost him the majority of his savings. He lived in a mansion given to him by the Sao Paulo football club until his death on September 6, 1969, at the age of 77.

 

After his death, the world of Brazilian football, which had changed so much in the years between his retirement and his death, seemed to forget about him. Friedenreich was Brazil's first football superstar. But, perhaps, more importantly, he was the country's first black football hero. Whether or not he scored 1,329 goals in 1,239 games, his legacy should go on, and his name should be immortalised in football history.


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