“Paulistão”, The Paulista Football Championship.

Flag of the State of São Paulo raised. Il campionato di calcio Paulista The Paulista Football Championship O Campeonato Paulista de Futebol

The Paulista Football Championship “Paulistão”.

The Paulista Football Championship, known as Paulistão is the oldest championship in Brazilian football and it has been played uninterruptedly since 1902. It was created by the Paulista Football League, founded in 1901 by the social elite of São Paulo, headed by the “coffee barons”. At that time none of the big 4 of São Paulo (Corinthians, Palmeiras, Santos and São Paulo) existed, it was an amateur championship and disputed by clubs composed by the most fortunate layer of the city of São Paulo.

A Sport of The Social Elite.

In the first decade of Paulistão, the matches served as entertainment for the city’s high bourgeoisie. The strongest team was Clube Atlético Paulistano, formed by the sons of the richest men in the region. At the time, there was already an ideological division within the Paulista Football League. Part of the members believed that football should only be for the elite, while another part believed in its democratization/popularization.

Clube Atlético Paulistano team from 1902
Team of Clube Atlético Paulistano, the team to beat in the first decades of Paulistão.

Popularization of the Game.

This scenario of rupture, combined with the success that football was developing in the city of drizzle, was extremelly important for the popularization of the sport. In 1906 the Clube Atlético Ypiranga was founded, the first football club in São Paulo that was not linked to the high bourgeoisie, formed mostly  by workers.

At the beginning of the 1910s, everything began to change when a club from England called Corinthian Football Club came to Brazil in order to play against Brazilian teams. The London team won every match it played. From that moment on, the democratization and popularization of São Paulo football began to gain strength.

The way the English team played and conducted the show served as an inspiration for a group of São Paulo workers to create the Sport Club Corinthians Paulista, thus creating another popular team in São Paulo, founded by railway workers. In addition to Corinthians, in a similar movement, Palestra Itália, today known as Sociedade Esportiva Palmeiras, was founded by workers from the Matarazzo industry, in order to represent all Italian immigrants in São Paulo.

With the rise of football’s popularity in the lower layer of São Paulo society, the Paulista Football League started to become even more divided, as its directors believed that football should be an elite sport, reason why the Paulista Football League broke up, and until the 1930s there was still a discussion about the democratization and popularization of São Paulo football.


Members of the Palestra Italia lined up for the photo.
Palestra Itália, one of the first Football Clubs in Brazil composed of immigrant workers.

Football Professionalization.

From the 1930s onwards, the professionalization of the sport began to take off, which led traditional clubs at the time, such as Clube Atlético Paulistano, to create an amateur league. But even with the departure of one of the strongest teams in the competition, Palestra Itália and Corinthians now as “heads”, boosted the professionalization of football in the drizzle city.

In this decade one of the great ones of São Paulo also emerged, after the merger of part of Clube Atlético Paulistano, that was not happy with the decision to continue as an amateur team, with part of the A.A das Palmeiras, which gave birth to São Paulo Futebol Clube. Therefore, in 1933 the Bandeirante Football League was created, and then the first professional championship in the country began, with the 5-1 victory for São Paulo over Santos.

The Consolidation.

From 1941 on Football was no longer something for the high bourgeoisie, different from that it was already a national passion and historical heritage. In that year, the Paulista Football Federation was created, an entity that until today provides the spectacle of games, history and diversity that is our Paulistão.

Paulistão only grew from year to year and since then it has provided us with wonderful things such as the Palmeiras Football Academies, the Glorious Pelé’s Santos, the Corinthians Democracy, the 5 titles in 8 years of Leônidas’s São Pulo, the unprecedented title of Bragantino commanded by “profexô” Luxemburgo, among many other things that are kept in the memory of every football lover.

Athletes from the Bragantino team in a photo before a Paulistão match in 1990
Bragantino’s team in the conquest of Paulistão in 1990. (historic and unprecedented title of the club).

As a result of the previous professionalization in relation to the other football championships in Brazil, the 4 big clubs in the State of São Paulo (Corinthians, Palmeiras, Santos and São Paulo) always had and still have a leading role on the national scene, winning a good part of the state titles, national and international disputed since then.

Below is a list of the greatest champions of our dear Paulistão:

  • Corinthians 30
  • Palmeiras 24
  • Santos 22
  • São Paulo 22
  • Paulistano 11
  • São Paulo Athletic 4
  • Portuguesa 3
  • AA das Palmeiras 3
  • Germânia 2
  • S.C Americano 2
  • Internacional SP 2
  • São Bento 2
  • Ituano 2
  • São Caetano 1
  • Bragantino 1
  • Inter de Limeira 1

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