Neymar is always the protagonist. On and off the field. In fact, he doesn’t have to do anything to get the spotlight on. He is innate. But sometimes he himself strives to be the focus of attention, aware -or not- of the consequences of his words and actions. Today the controversy is above him in Brazil. His support for Jair Bolsonaro in the presidential elections it has placed him as a perfect target for criticism in a country practically divided between two options.
Before the first round (October 2), the PSG star expressed his full support for the candidacy of Bolsonaro, the current president of Brazil who seeks to be re-elected in these elections, and with whom ‘Ney’ maintains a friendly relationship for some years.
In fact, in 2019, Bolsonaro defended the player’s innocence when he was accused of rape by the model Najila Trindade, a complaint that was later filed for lack of evidence. In addition, both have shared different moments together -mainly for soccer issues- that they have captured in photographs.
That is why ‘Ney’, relying on his good relationship with Bolsonaro -and probably also on his ideals- ignored the thousands of questions facing the presidential candidate and decided to be an active character in his campaign on the eve of the election. first round.
“Vote, vote and confirm: 22 is Bolsonaro”sings and repeats the crack of PSG in a video that he himself shared on his official TikTok account, emphasizing the number of the president’s candidacy with his fingers.
Meanwhile, Bolsonaro thanked the player through his social networks and shared this video, which surely helped him a lot to win voters, promoting his re-election and Brazil’s six-time championship in the Qatar 2022 World Cup.
Quickly, the controversy broke out. Neymar received a lot of criticism for joining the current president’s campaign. His name became a trend once again and not precisely because of what he was doing on a soccer field. But the ’10’ of the Brazilian team did not remain silent.
“They talk about democracy and a lot of things, but when someone has a different opinion they are attacked by the very people who talk about democracy. Let’s see who understands”he wrote on his Twitter account.
Similarly, the controversy continues unabated. There is not much left for the second round (October 30) and the name of ‘Ney’ continues to resonate strongly due to this political situation. Even in a recent interview for the Flow podcast, Lula da Silva, Bolsonaro’s contender in the elections, ironized about the footballer’s support for the other candidacy.
“I am not upset. Neymar has the right to choose whoever he wants as President. I think he is afraid that, if I win the elections, he will know that Bolsonaro forgave him the income tax debt. I think that is why he is afraid of me”, Lula pointed out, referring to an alleged agreement between the president and the player’s father for the cancellation of an old debt of 88 million reais in taxes, for activities between 2011 and 2013.
The leftist former president even took advantage of the occasion to emphasize the trial that the Brazilian crack faces today in Barcelona for the alleged corruption in his signing for the Barça club in 2013. He also recalled the alleged pending debts that the player has with the Spanish Treasury amounting to approximately 35 million euros.
In this way, Neymar continues without escaping from the political controversy in his country. It is unavoidable. A 15-second video of him has generated many comments against him, although he is already used to it in his profession. Be that as it may, he has not spoken again on the subject.
Football and politics hand in hand
In Brazil, it is nothing new that soccer players or former soccer players -mainly- express their support for a candidacy in the elections. In fact, Neymar has not been the only star in his country who has supported Bolsonaro’s re-election at this time.
In addition to the PSG star, less than a month ago football legends such as Romário, Dani Alves (still active), Julio Baptista and Rivaldo publicly expressed their position in favor of the re-election of the current president of Brazil.
In the 2018 elections, Ronaldinho was one of those who also openly supported Bolsonaro, publishing a photograph with the ‘Scratch’ shirt and number 17 on his back, which alluded to the electoral number that then identified the far-right candidate.
On the other side, Lula has the support of Raí, younger brother of the historic Socrates and world champion with Brazil in 1994. Nothing more and nothing less than in the recent Ballon d’Or ceremony, the former soccer player expressed his support for the former president by imitating the letter L with his hand and leaving an important message.
“Socrates represents fair values, democracy, to achieve a better world, and football represents the world we dream of. At this moment I think of my country, which has a very important appointment at the end of the month and I know what Socrates would think”Rai pointed out.
There are many soccer players and former soccer players who prefer to remain apolitical during some important activity in their country. But there are exceptional cases, such as that of Diego Armando Maradona, who always leaned to the left and forged special relationships with various political leaders in South America.
In fact, the ‘Pelusa’ was constantly faithful to Chavismo. He was a close friend of Hugo Chávez, with whom he was “to death” and maintained that same bond with Nicolás Maduro, current president of Venezuela, whom he unconditionally supported at various times.
The late Argentine star also had a special friendship with Fidel Castro, whom he even described as his “second father.” Meanwhile, Diego supported candidacies such as Lula da Silva himself (Brazil) and Evo Morales (Bolivia). In his country, he was “a soldier of Peronism”, for which he supported Alberto Fernández and Cristina Kirchner, current president and vice president of Argentina.
Then there are many more examples. In Colombia, two referents such as Faustino Asprilla and Adolfo ‘El Tren’ Valencia decided to publicly support the candidacy of Germán Vargas Lleras in 2018. In our country, Peru, some players from the national team called to vote for Keiko Fujimori in 2021 in the “Put on the shirt” campaign.
Lastly, there are also political situations, regardless of the elections, that make it necessary to establish a position. This is the case, for example, of a crack like David Beckham, who in 2016 joined the “Bremain” campaign for the permanence of the United Kingdom in the European Union. Likewise, in the midst of the referendum on the independence of Catalonia in 2017, different cracks from Real Madrid and Barcelona spoke about this issue, with Gerard Piqué being the main protagonist with his independence declarations.
From the pitch to the benches
While some soccer players -the vast majority- decide to rest when the kicks hang up, others prefer to remain involved in this sport from a more political perspective. This mostly happens in Brazil. There are plenty of cases in which they not only venture as directors of king sport institutions, but also at the level of a country
For example, between 1994 and 1998, the great Pelé was Minister of Sports under the mandate of the former Brazilian president, Fernando Henrique Cardoso. During his management, the former ‘Scratch’ striker enacted the “Pelé Law”, which provides for the release letter or mandatory renewal when a player’s contract ends.
As well as Pelé there are also the Brazilian figures of Bebeto and Romario. The world champions in 1994 took advantage of their media pull so that in 2010 they will be chosen as deputy and senator, respectively, in the State of Rio de Janeiro.
Others even go further in this regard, such as George Weah, the only Ballon d’Or winner of African origin in history, who in 2018 was elected President of the Republic of Liberia.
Then there are also cracks that reached high command of the most important football institutions in the world. The clearest example is that of Michael Platini -three-time Ballon d’Or winner-, who was president of UEFA from 2007 to 2015, but was expelled due to the ‘FIFA Gate’ scandal
However, what is seen most today is that former soccer players choose to enter the leadership of the clubs to which they preached their love and passion. As is the case of Juan Román Riquelme, current vice president of Boca Juniors; Éric Abidal, sports director of Barcelona until 2021; Oliver Kahn, sporting director of Bayern Munich; among others.
I, Ronald Payne, am a journalist and author who dedicated his life to telling the stories that need to be said. I have over 7 years of experience as a reporter and editor, covering everything from politics to business to crime.