The end of the 19th century in Brazil was a troubled period with many political and social changes: slavery was abolished, the Republic was proclaimed, and a new social order was installed in the country. As a result, the arrival of immigrants, mainly from Europe, was one of the highlights of the population movement at the end of this century. European labor became one of the main labor forces in the country that was slowly industrializing, and for this reason Italians, English and Germans came to the country to constitute the workforce that would build factories, bridges and railways.

And it is these immigrants who spread the passion for sports here, especially football.

The Votorantim industries did not officially come into being until 1918 (after the acquisition of the Banco União Fabric Factory by Antonio Pereira Ignacio), but their history was already being developed along with the history of football in Brazil. In 1890, Banco União had already bought the land that would give rise, in the future, to the municipality of Votorantim and there began to build a fabric factory – this factory was built with the labor and expertise of English workers, who in the intervals of work they practiced their new passion in a recreational way: football, which was still new in Brazil and had been brought from their homeland.

Votoran football team, commemorating the victory against Clube Atlético Votorantim, 1940.

In a short time, Italian immigrants joined the English and thus shared, in addition to the same job at Fábrica de Tecidos Votorantim, the same passion for football. For this reason, Votorantim Athletic Club and Sport Club Savoia were founded in the early hours of the new twentieth century, the factory team and the city’s lowland team, respectively. The Fabrics Factory team was basically made up of Englishmen, while Savóia had a large majority of Italian players in their squad. It is worth mentioning that these two clubs are part of the first football teams to be founded in the country.

Over time, the two clubs coexist, but the Votorantim Athletic Club loses strength, English workers begin to return to their homeland, and the Italian colony that supported Savóia was constantly growing: the team grew in importance. This continued until 1904, when Savóia gained support from Votorantim and became the main team at the factory.

When he acquired the Fabrics Factory in 1918, and started the Anonyma Votorantim Society, Pereira Ignacio receives this history and all the passion of the workers for football. Later, José Ermírio de Moraes would become his son-in-law and partner and his descendants continue to encourage sports.

With the advent of World War II, teams with Italian names – Italy was officially at war with Brazil – had to change their names to avoid further problems. It is at this moment, for example, that Palestra Itália changes its name to Palmeira, and Savóia changes its name to Clube Atlético Votorantim. His fabric factory workers formed teams and competed in several championships. In the image, the team lands for the photo on a match day against São Paulo Futebol Clube, in the 1950s. José Ermírio de Moraes Filho (in a black suit) and Leônidas Silva (last standing, on the right) are in the photo, the “Diamante Negro”, artilleryman inventor of the “bicycle” game in football and then coach of São Paulo.

José Ermírio de Moraes Filho (black suit) with the Clube Atlético Votorantim team, 1940s.


Many are the stories of clubs that are born in factories. Nitro Química, Votorantim’s business until 2011, also had several teams, in which the second generation of the Moraes Family – José Ermírio de Moraes Filho, Antônio Ermírio de Moraes and Ermírio Pereira de Moraes – often played.

Soccer team of Nitro Química, with the participation of Antonio Ermírio de Moraes, in the 1950s.

A family in the crowd

At the Santa Maria farm in Sorocaba, the children José Ermírio de Moraes Filho, Antônio Ermírio de Moraes and Maria Helena de Moraes, play ball in the 1930s.

When a student at the Colorado School of Mines, in the USA, Antônio Ermírio de Moraes was also a goalkeeper for the university team.