Soccer is Brazil's most popular national pastime. Passion for futebol, the Portuguese word for soccer, is reflected in the number and the size of soccer stadiums all over the country. The world's largest soccer stadium, the Maracana, is located in Rio de Janeiro and seats 200,000 fans. It is no surprise that when a boy is born, often the first gift he receives is a soccer ball.

A sport that is purely Brazilian is the capoeira. This sport has elements of martial arts and of dancing. The capoeira comes from a fighting style that originated in Angola. In the early slave days there were frequent fights among the blacks. Both sides were punished when caught. As a result, the slaves disguised their fighting by using music and song. Over the years, it was refined into a highly athletic sport in which two contestants move in a series of swift cartwheels and whirling handstands on the floor. Each one tries to deliver blows to the other using only legs, feet, heels and heads. Hands are not allowed.

Auto-racing and beach sports are very popular among Brazilians. Brazil has some of the world's best volleyball teams. Basketball, tennis, surfing and canoeing are also important sports.

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The Brazilian soccer team is the first team to win the World Cup four times: 1958, 1962, 1970 and 1994. Brazil has more professional soccer teams than any other country in the world.

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The greatest soccer player who ever lived is Edson Arantes do Nascimento, known as Pele, a Brazilian, who scored more than 1200 goals during his career and led his team to three World Cup championships. He made his international soccer debut at the age of 16. At 17 he played for Brazil in the World Cup Soccer Final, scoring two goals in the 4-2 win over Sweden.