On this day in 1904, Brazil’s Botafogo were founded as a football club by a group of teenagers following a maths class. First known as Electro Club, a merger with the Botafogo rowing team would see them rise to become one of Rio de Janeiro’s big four.
The rowing club, Club de Regatas Botafogo, had been founded ten years earlier, named after the bay in which they competed. The football outfit sprung from an idea by students of Alfredo Gomes College. Two friends, Flávio Ramos and Emmanuel Sodré, swapped notes in an algebra class about starting a new team to rival those of neighbouring streets. It was intercepted by their teacher, General Júlio Noronha, who, while stopping the chatter, expressed his support for a new sporting venture.
On August 12, 1904, the expanded group consisting of boys aged 14 and 15 gathered and started a football club in an old house on Largo dos Leões. Writing membership subscriptions on an old invoice book from the extinct Electro Club, they decided to adopt the name until the following month, when, on Ramos’s grandmother’s suggestion, they took the name of the neighbourhood, Botafogo.
In 1906, the team participated in the first Carioca (Rio State) championship and just a year later, tied with Fluminense to becoming champions. Growth and further regional glory followed before tragedy would unite the football and regatta organisations.
On June 11th, 1942, during a basketball match between both sides, the football club’s Armando Albano collapsed and died of a heart attack with ten minutes remaining. The president of Club de Regatas Botafogo, Augusto Frederico Schmidt, declared that the game would not be finished. “We all want the young fighter to leave this great night as a winner. This is how we salute him”. Eduardo Góis Trindade, Botafogo Football Club’s president then said: “Between the matches of our clubs, only one can be the winner: Botafogo!”. And so the two clubs merged to become Botafogo FR.
The union saw the creation of the distinct crest, adopting the ‘lone star’ of the regatta club on the shape of the football club’s badge. Black shorts were added to the black and white striped kit – a homage to Juventus, the team of Itamar Tavares, one of original founders.
A first title following the merger came six years later and further success followed. Players such as Garrincha, Nilton Santos, Jairzinho, and Zagallo became national stars and the club contributed the core of the Brazil team which won the 1958 and 1962 World Cups.
The club lost ownership of its original General Severiano grounds in 1977 due to a large amount of debts. The stadium was sold and subsequently demolished. The followng year, Botafogo moved out of their beachside base to the suburb of Marechal Hermes.
An unwanted milestone came in 2002 when Botafogo were relegated to Brazil’s Serie B for the first time in their history. Internal turmoil followed but promotion was secured a year later and, in 2007, the club won a dispute against Fluminense for ownership of the modern Estadio João Havelange in the neighborhood of Engenho de Dentro built for that year’s Pan-American Games. With permission from the Rio authorities, it is referred to as Estádio Olímpico Nilton Santos by ‘Fogao’ fans. In 2014, the team were again relegated to the second tier.
Botafogo have won two Brazilian national titles, 20 Carioca crowns, and one Copa CONMEBOL. Quarentinha is the all-time leading club goalscorer with 306 goals in 444 games. The late Nilton Santos played 723 times for the team and made 84 appearances with Brazil. Regarded as one of the greatest defenders in history, Santos was named in the World Team of the 20th Century. Nicknamed ‘The Encyclopedia” because of his knowledge of the sport, Botafogo’s stadium is named in his honour and will serve as the athletics track and field venue for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
In June 2012, Dutch star Clarence Seedorf signed a two-year contract with the club, and scored his 100th career goal in Botafogo colours on his way to a Rio state title. Seedorf retired from playing at the end of his time in Brazil to move into management.
Current coach Ricardo Gomes took the reins in July 2015. Four years ago, Gomes suffered a stroke during the match between Flamengo and Vasco da Gama and was rushed to hospital. He was diagnosed with a life-threatening brain hemorrhage that required emergency head surgery. The former PSG and Benfica player had captained Brazil at the 1990 World Cup and was named to lead the side again in 1994 but was forced to pull out of the competition at the last minute due to injury. Brazil of course went on to win the tournament. In 2012, Gomes returned to the sport with Vasco and is now hoping to guide cross-city rivals O Glorioso – the Glorious one – back to Brazil’s top table.