Corinthians 4 Chelsea 4

Tour match - 4 July 1929

This remarkable topsy-turvy match – the first visit to São Paulo by a professional English team – was the penultimate of a gruelling but inspiring three-month, 16-game tour of Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil in summer 1929.

Chelsea were invited by local football interests to aid the locals’ preparation for the first World Cup in 1930, but were also asked to report back on the state of the game there by The FA. While England would refuse to sign up for the FIFA tournament, the Pensioners were galvanised by the experience into achieving promotion the following spring.

The tourists had played under floodlights for the first time a few days earlier in Rio. Now the game against the team later know for Sócrates, Rivelino and Gilmar was played at Palmeiras’s stadium in São Paulo. Sid Elliott inspired the visitors, in blue shirts and black shorts, in a dazzling eight-minute spell that produced a 3-0 lead. Elliott set up Alec Jackson for the first and netted the third himself, Andy Wilson notching a direct free kick in between.

Corinthians’ comeback began when a shot deflected in off Tommy Law. Another free-kick reduced the arrears and Gambinha equalised. ‘The shouting and booing of the spectators and the violence of the game,’ said Estado de São Paulo, ‘made it look like a bullfight.’ It was not the first time the crowd had intervened – earlier, in Argentina, Chelsea’s players had been physically attacked.

Home side winger De Maria made up for an easy miss by easing his team in front, before Elliott shot from distance to level the scores at 4-4. The game earned the hosts the nickname ‘the team of the turn’; the Londoners were already dubbed ‘low numerados’ as they had introduced numbered shirts to the region for the first time.

A few days later Chelsea were given a rousing send-off from the Luz train station in São Paulo from where they headed back to Rio. Later that week they finally caught the steamer home, wide-eyed and wiser for the experience.

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