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With five World Cup trophies, Brazil is the soccer capital of the globe. However, while it is true that the country enters into a frenzy any time an international competition comes around, the truth is that Brazilian soccer fans care far more about their favorite clubs than the national team. Nowhere is this more apparent than in São Paulo, a place large enough to house four massive soccer clubs: Corinthians, Palmeiras, São Paulo and Santos. Going to see a soccer match in the city should be high up on the to-do list of any tourist.
The most popular team in São Paulo (and the second most popular in Brazil), Corinthians regards itself as being the “team of the people” and gathers most of its support from the city’s working-class suburbs. Its iconic white and black kit can be seen all over São Paulo and even in other parts of the country. Nicknamed the Timão (Big Team), Corinthians spent most of its history as a regional force, only winning its first national championship in 1990. However, Corinthians’s golden era came at the beginning of the 2010s, winning two national championships, one South American championship and one World championship over the space of four seasons.
Famous players in the club’s history include Socrates, one of the greatest creative midfielders in Brazil’s history who played for the club for six years between 1978 and 1984. Legendary striker Ronaldo also played for Corinthians at the end of his career and is revered by the fans.
Corinthians plays its home games at the Arena Corinthians stadium, situated to the east of São Paulo. It was built specifically for the 2014 World Cup and hosted six matches during the tournament.
Corinthians’s biggest rival is Palmeiras, the current Brazilian champions. The club is traditionally linked with the city’s Italian community, having been founded by a group of Italian laborers in the early 20th century. Playing in green and white, Palmeiras is officially nicknamed Verdão (Big Greens) but is also commonly known as Porco (Pigs) which was once a derogatory name leveled at the club by their rivals and later proudly adopted by Palmeiras fans.
The club’s all-time hero is goalkeeper Marcos, who spent his entire 20-year career playing for Palmeiras and kept goal for Brazil during its triumphant World Cup campaign in 2002. Manchester City forward and Brazil’s number nine Gabriel Jesus began his career at the club and is one of the fans’ favorites.
Palmeiras’s Allianz Parque stadium is one of the most modern in Brazil, having been opened at the end of 2014. It is also a popular concert venue and will host matches at the 2019 Copa America.
Known as the Tricolor for its white, red and black kit, São Paulo is the city’s second-most supported club and one of Brazil’s most successful. It was among the best teams in the world in the early 1990s, winning two South American championships as well as two world titles. São Paulo dominated the continent once more in the 2000s, winning three consecutive Brazilian championships, as well as a South American and world double in 2005.
The club’s all-time greatest player is goalkeeper Rogério Ceni, who became known around the world for his goals from free-kicks and penalties. With an incredible 132 goals, he is the highest scoring goalkeeper in the history of the sport. He retired in 2015 and is now the team’s head coach.
Other famous players to have played for São Paulo include Raí (the younger brother of Sócrates and an important part of Brazil’s World Cup-winning team of 1994), legendary right-back Cafu and former AC Milan midfielder Kaká.
The club plays its home matches at the massive Morumbi stadium, which is the biggest soccer stadium in the city, holding over 72,000 spectators. It is situated to the southwest of the city center.
While not technically part of São Paulo’s Iron Trio, as they are from a city outside of the state capital, Santos is one of the most famous football clubs in the world, never mind in their own country. Playing in the coastal city of the same name, Santos is nicknamed the Peixe (Fish) and its all-white kits are recognized across the globe.
The club’s fame is such owing largely to Pelé, the greatest soccer player of all time, who played for Santos for 18 years, arriving as an unknown 16-year-old and leaving as a 34-year-old global superstar. Pelé won three World Cups as a Santos player, while he also took his club to an astonishing 26 trophies, including two South American championships and two world championships.
In recent years, Santos has continued to produce excellent young players, including Robinho (formerly of Real Madrid, Manchester City and AC Milan) and Barcelona’s star winger Neymar.
The club plays its home matches at the Vila Belmiro stadium, in Santos, which lies on the Baixada Santista coast, 77 kilometers from the city of São Paulo. As Santos’s home stadium is fairly small, the club also plays some of their matches at the municipal Pacaembu stadium, in São Paulo.