Man who gave Brazil fitba’

Gerry Sweeney
Gerry Sweeney

With the nation in the grip of World Cup fever, Linlithgow man Gerry Sweeney has been linked to a Scot who was instrumental in bringing the game of football to World Cup hosts Brazil more than 100 years ago.

Gerry Sweeney, of Springfield, is the great-nephew of Thomas Donohue, a Glasgow printer who travelled to the South American country in 1893.

Donohue was amazed to find no-one played football in Brazil so called upon his wife to bring over footballs from Scotland and a year later he set up the country’s first match between local factory workers.

A Scots rail worker, Charles Miller, had up until recently been credited with bringing the game to Brazil in 1895 but research carried out in 2011, thanks to funding from the Scottish Football Association, has revealed Thomas was actually the person who launched the sport in the country. Earlier this year a bronze statue of Thomas was unveiled in Rio and is now part of an exhibition running throughout the World Cup.

Gerry (53), a procurement officer with Scottish and Southern Energy, has lived with his wife Suzanne in Linlithgow for 21 years and their two daughters, Marnie and Dayna.

He said: ‘‘While I was aware of my great-uncle’s link with the South American country it was only after The Sun newspaper contacted me that I found out he was the person who first took football to the country.’’

Gerry added: ‘‘I was in Brazil 10 years ago on business and watched some games but was not aware of his legacy or I would have carried out some research myself.’’

Gerry added family members also believe Thomas was a relative of Brother Walfrid, who founded Glasgow Celtic in 1888.