After having witnessed a game in the Pacaembu stadium, Sao Paulo, with Santos FC as home team, and seeing the home team could almost fill the stadium with their own fans (away fans were not allowed) although Santos is three hours away from Sao Paulo... We just had to see the passion from Santos FC and its wonderful stadium. Hence we went to Estadio Urbano Caldeira, also known as Vila Belmiro.
Across the years Santos FC became known for its Joga Bonito (the beautiful game) and it has become one of the most successful teams in Brazil. Who would have guessed when it all started in 1912 when three friends decided it was time to put football on the map in their village. There was football before, but Atletico Internacional dissolved in 1910 and Americano moved to Sao Paulo in 1911. One year later already Santos FC was created, interesting enough only hours before the great Titanic sank in the ocean.
Their very first official season wasn't a big success due to several big losses and high financial losses (due to the distances in the country), but one year later they won the Campeonato Santista. In 1914 they only played friendlies and in 1915 they temporarily changed their name into Uniao Futebol Clube in order to be able to compete in a different league where traveling was less needed. After winning that league as well, they returned and started playing in their current stadium (in 1916).
Between 1917 and 1926 Santos FC was considered very talented, but couldn't live up to the expectations. This changed in 1927 when they became known as the 100 goal attackers. Every year they would score more than 100 goals per season. It also formed the start of the professionalism of the team, which was officialised in 1933. During the 30s they dominated Brazilian football, winning the very first state title in 1935. One remarkable fact; in 1930 they played a friendly against the French national team (after their World Cup in Uruguay) and Santos FC won 6-1. France thought they played the Brazilian national team in disguise and Santos FC had to prove afterwards it was really only Santos FC.
After having won the state title in 1935 a lot of players retired or left the team and a decade of moderate football began. Until 1947 the team wouldn't reach the top 5 anymore, but slowly they came back. After WWII Santos FC regularly ended second or third and during the years they would invest heavily in renewing their team every once in a while. The biggest transfer they realised was in 1956 when they signed 15 year old Edson Arantes do Nascimento. Yes - they signed Pele!
It wasn't a coincidence the golden era of Santos FC also started in 1956. Later nicknamed Os Santasticos, Santos FC won their second state title in 1956 and two years later, when Brazil won the world cup with a couple of Santos players, Santos won their third state title. Pele managed to set a record which still hasn't been broken - 58 goals in one season. During the 60s Santos would continue to win titles; six Brazilian Championships (five Taça Brasil and one Torneio Roberto Gomes Pedrosa), two Copas Libertadores, two Intercontinental Cups, three Rio-São Paulo, a South American Recopa, a World and numerous international tournaments. Even in the 70s they still won two championships.
Between 1974 and 1994 Santos FC changed from a team known for sublime technical football into a team of warriors who fought with passion and soul. Although not that often anymore, Santos FC would still regularly win a title here and there. During the 90s however, the team really had to fight to get their results. In 2000 and 2001 for instance they only ended just above the relegation places. The change of the millennium brought financial problems and Santos FC decided to let go a lot of high profile players and start with a new team.
It took a number of years, but in 2009, when they signed a 13 year old Neymar, the second golden era began. Although it was only for a number of years. Up until 2012 they would win at least two titles per season. Unfortunately, and this is how modern football works these days, they would loose a lot of players to European teams. Neymar for instance left for Barcelona. Up until now, they are still trying to rebuild the team to enter the third golden era.
We can't even begin to sum up the passion of the fans. They are considered to be the most passionate in Brazilian football and their rivalries with the Sao Paulo teams are known all over the world. It's even more impossible to try and count the famous players that have played at Santos side. Pele and Neymar obviously being the most famous two, but the list is endless. What we can do is admire their wonderful stadium, in the end still our biggest interest in football.
Estadio Urbano Caldeira was inaugurated in 1916, so this makes it one of the very very few stadiums in the world where the team is already active in it for more than a century. Definitely something to be proud of. Although it's a rather small stadium, hence the reason why they sometimes have to play in the Pacaembu stadium, it contains everything an oldschool team dreams about. Wonderful terracing and nothing but beautiful history. It's definitely worth looking at the old pictures of the stadium. Especially the ones of the inauguration in 1916, the ones of the first game played in the evening in 1931 and the very first concrete stand of the stadium in 1955. The biggest changes happened during the 90s and 00s, but it's magical to see how well this has been renovated. Completely according to our standards!