A Cruzeiro Century Written in the Stars

Imagine if your club’s badge was so good that you could see it in the sky at night?

As Cruzeiro celebrate a century of football, we take look at the significance of the famous five stars shining on their shirts.

Over the past 100 years, some of Brazil’s greatest stars from Tostão and Jairzinho to the phenomenal Ronaldo have pulled on the celestial blue shirts of Cruzeiro.

Across a century of football, the club has recorded 2 continental Copa Libertadores crowns, 4 Brasileirão national titles, a record 6 Copa Brasil honours, and in 2003, they achieved the unprecedented distinction of a domestic treble of, state, national and Brazilian cup titles.

Cruzeiro have released a simple cotton shirt to celebrate their centenary

The Cruzeiro we know today is very different from the club founded by a group of sportsmen and workers of Italian heritage in the south eastern city of Belo Horizonte a century ago.

As major events of the 20th century shaped the identity of the side we now know as Cruzeiro Esporte Clube, they would go on to become one of the most popular and successful football clubs in Brazil.

European migration to the Americas had been a theme of the decades leading up to their foundation in January 1921, with Italians particularly drawn to the New World during a time of great social change and economic uncertainty at home.

Today, there are believed to be 31 million people of Italian heritage living in Brazil.

The old Palestra Itália badge first used in 1921

The sportsmen of Belo Horizonte who  founded the Palestra Itália club on January 2nd 1921, wanted to create an institution their community could call their own, away from many of the city’s other establishments which tended to draw members from the higher echelons of society.

They were not the only sporting association of Italian heritage to take that name, and much like the club from São Paulo that would become Palmeiras; the Palestra Itália of Belo Horizonte were forced into a change of identity during World War 2.

An updated Societá Sportiva Palestra Itália crest from 1927

When Brazil entered the Second World War in 1942, after merchant vessels were sunk by German U-Boats in the Atlantic, she sided with her trading partner the United States, and the Allies, prompting the federal government to crack-down on the use of any symbols referring to the Axis powers.

With their club in the government’s sights, Palestra Itália’s members were forced into a change and after some experimentation, decided to adopt a prominent national symbol as their new identity.

Initially the club renamed themselves Societá Sportiva Ypiranga in reference to the “Cry of Ypiranga” and the river where the nation’s independence from Portugal was first proclaimed.

That name lasted just one game before a switch to Palestra Mineiro was adopted as a tribute to their home state of Minas Gerais.

Yet still the name didn’t speak of the club’s identity or individuality and was probably too similar to that of rivals Atlético Mineiro.

The club was renamed Cruzeiro Esporte Clube in 1942

So, taking inspiration from the Cruzeiro do Sul – the Southern Cross constellation as it is known in Portuguese – Cruzeiro Esporte Clube played their first game under their new name in 1943.

Cleverly, the re-named side still hinted at their heritage in their selection of club colours, with their first kit consisting of shirts in House of Savoy blue with a large white v-neck scapular design, complete with white shorts and socks.

Cruzeiro, Crest, Badge, Cruzeiro do Sul, Belo Horizonte, Brazil
The first Cruzeiro kit from 1943

The club flirted with other colour combinations during the 1950s, and with floodlight technology still in its infancy, switched to bright white shirts with blue trim details, blue shorts and white socks for night games. The look was used for nine years and would go on to become their established away kit.

The evolution of the Cruzeiro shirt continued, and even saw a brief flirtation with hoops before moving back to blue in September 1959. This also saw the first example of the five stars from their official crest, shining in a loose constellation across the heart of the shirt.

Cruzeiro, Raposa, kit, Crest, Badge, Cruzeiro do Sul, Belo Horizonte, Brazil
Cruzeiro return to blue and debut a loose constellation of stars in 1959

Cruzeiro’s iconic use of the five stars from the Southern Cross continued until 2000, when a circular crest was re-introduced to the shirts, and through the early kits of the 21st Century, they alternated between the loose star formation and the official club badge.

Then, in 2003, a new shirt with a crest referencing their two Copa Libertadores victories was unveiled, for a landmark campaign that saw them record a glorious domestic treble of the Brazilian national title, Copa da Brasil, and their home state championship.

Cruzeiro, Raposa, mascot
Cruzeiro’s “Raposa” nickname comes from the sly reputation of a former president

Raposa (the fox) again updated their badge in 2004 and included a crown, symbolic of that special “Triple Crown” on top of the two continental trophies.

Since 2007 the club has exclusively used the “loose stars” design on home shirts and we think they are all the better for it.

Less is most certainly more.

Ronaldo, Cruzeiro, Crest, Badge, Cruzeiro do Sul, Belo Horizonte, Brazil
A young Ronaldo in the blue of Cruzeiro

Although currently languishing in Brazil’s Serie B following the first relegation in their history in 2019, there’s still a certain lustre to the sight of those five stars set against the deep, royal blue of their shirts.

Whatever happens to Celeste (Celestial) in this season or next, the Southern Cross constellation from which they take their name will shine on for many, many millenia to come.

An eternal mark on the night sky and an exceptional club crest, it must feel pretty special to be a Cruzeiro fan casting your eyes towards the heavens at night.

The club take their name from the Cruzeiro do Sul constellation, a symbol of their Brazilian homeland
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