Brazilian right wingers: Jair Bolsonaro pulls out politically reticent football stars

Often reticent to become embroiled in politics, Brazilian footballers are making rare interventions as a far-right candidate’s presidential campaign polarizes the country and divides the football world.

By: Express News Service | Updated: September 22, 2018 10:04:07 am

Jair Bolsonaro, National Social Liberal Party presidential candidate, who was stabbed while campaigning, is the front-runner for the October 7 polls. (Source: AP)

Right vs Left

A former army captain, Jair Bolsonaro has taken the lead in the polls after appealing to concerns about public security, religious conservativism, homophobia and anti-left politics. He is the clear front-runner in a crowded field for the first round of the elections on October 7. If he faces Fernando Haddad, the nominee of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s left-wing Workers’ Party (PT) in the second round at the end of the month, many middle and upper-class voters, who blame Lula for the PT above all for Brazil’s troubles, could be swayed to vote for Bolsonaro.

Sympathy After Getting Stabbed

Just a month before the elections, Bolsonaro was stabbed while campaigning on September 6. His attacker claimed to be upset about racial slurs made by the candidate and was “sent by God” to attack Bolsonaro. After undergoing two surgeries, Bolsonaro is recovering at a hospital in Sao Paulo. The incident made him more popular.

Support from Kaka, Cafu, Melo

Brazilian greats Kaka and Cafu have come out to support him.

Bolsonaro has received massive support from footballers. Brazilian greats Kaka and Cafu have come out to support him while World Cupper Filipe Melo posted a video online, wishing Bolsonaro a speedy recovery. Tottenham’s Lucas Moura, too, has endorsed Bolsonaro. The fact that they haven’t given reason for their support of the candidate has irked many.

Those Against Him

Walter Casagrande, a European Cup winner with Porto in 1987 who is now a pundit on Brazilian TV, had to change his phone number after criticizing players who would not explain in detail why they endorsed Bolsonaro. “We live in a democracy and everyone has the right to their opinions. But they have to know what they are talking about,” Casagrande said. “They can endorse any candidate, but once they go public they have to tell why. It is not enough to say ‘I endorse this guy.’ As soccer heroes they influence a lot of people.” Brazil and Lyon midfielder Juninho has entered into several spats with Bolsonaro’s supporters on Twitter. “I didn’t know Bolsonaro voters followed me,” Juninho said. “Please, don’t. I don’t want a high number of followers, I want those that are human beings of character.”

The Tolerance Debate

Elias, a midfielder at Belo Horizonte club Atletico Mineiro, said he would never vote for the far-right candidate, but argued footballers have to be more tolerant with those who will. “I don’t vote for Bolsonaro, but we have to tolerate who do,” Elias said. “That tolerance is also in a low in soccer.”

Neymar Steers Clear

Four years ago Neymar endorsed right-leaning Aecio Neves, who narrowly lost to the re-elected president,

The national team’s biggest star Neymar has steered clear of making any public statements about the election. Four years ago he endorsed right-leaning Aecio Neves, who narrowly lost to the re-elected president, Dilma Rousseff. Ronaldinho, who too hasn’t spoken publicly on the issue, had earlier aligned himself with Bolsonaro but joined another group – Brazilian Republic Party, a group that has strong right-leaning tendencies.

Departure From Past

Brazilian footballers have always been closely associated with politics, but most of them have followed a socialist ideology, dating back to the days of Socrates. The Brazilian great aggressively took politics to people, demanding better schools and hospitals, higher wages, and democratic elections to replace the military rulers in the 70s and 80s. Romario, one of Brazil’s greatest players, too is a politician now with a socialist party.

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