An uproar over gays and soccer in Brazil
In a macho sport, an uproar over gays and soccer in Brazil
By TALES AZZONI, Associated Press Writer
August 14, 2007
SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) – The director of a prominent soccer team insinuates on national television that a player on a rival team is gay. The player sues for slander and goes on TV to deny it. A judge causes an uproar by saying gays don't belong in Brazilian soccer.
With a narrative like a Latin American soap opera, the flap over the sexual orientation of Sao Paulo midfielder Richarlyson has shaken the hallowed and macho institution of Brazilian soccer.
The commotion started in June when Palmeiras club director Jose Cyrillo Junior was asked on TV whether it was true that a soccer player from his team was negotiating for an exclusive television interview to announce he was gay.
Cyrillo denied the report, but added "Richarlyson 'almost' played for Palmeiras," suggesting the 24-year-old player was gay.
Cyrillo later apologized, but Richarlyson -- whose father played professionally and whose brother played in Portugal and is now with Brazil's Cruzeiro -- filed a criminal complaint for slander.
Judge Manoel Maximiano Junqueira Filho stoked the dispute by dismissing Richarlyson's claim and issuing a ruling that suggested he leave the game if he were gay. If he weren't, the judge said, Richarlyson was obliged to defend himself on the same TV program.
"Not that a homosexual can't play soccer," Filho wrote. "He can, but he must form his own team and federation, setting up matches with those who want to play against him."
The judge concluded it is not "reasonable to accept homosexuals in Brazilian soccer because it would hurt the uniformity present" in team sport. Soccer, the judge said, is a "virile game" but "not homosexual," and allowing gays could lead to affirmative action for the sport requiring quotas of gays.
The ruling prompted the government body that oversees judicial ethics in Brazil to demand an explanation from the judge, who has until Friday to respond.
The judge, who did not respond to repeated requests for interviews, abruptly voided his initial ruling last week, saying a different court has jurisdiction. Then he took a leave of absence beginning Monday with no date for a return.
Gay rights groups were outraged but said the controversy has forced the issue into the open in a country where gays generally are tolerated, but usually not in soccer and often ridiculed.
"It was a fascist statement and (the judge) needs to pay for it," said Marcelo Cerqueira, president of the Grupo Gay da Bahia.
He said there are several gays in Brazil's pro league, but they fear disclosing their sexual orientation over losing their jobs.
"This case is important to uncover the issue about gays in soccer, to create debate," Cerqueira said.
There have been no public declarations of homosexuality by Brazilian league players. Some well-known players have posed nude in gay magazines, but none acknowledged being gay. Among them were World Cup veteran Vampeta, former Sao Paulo goalkeeper Roger and, most recently, Vitoria goalkeeper Rafael Cordova.
Cordova said there are gays in the Brazilian league, and he sympathizes with their situation. But after the announcement that he will appear naked in an upcoming issue of Brazil's "G Magazine," many fans vilified him even though he says he is heterosexual.
"The fans want me fired," Cordova told Veja newsmagazine last week. "We lost three matches in a row and who do you think they are putting the blame on?"
The judge's pronouncement surprised some accustomed to the sport's masculine ethos.
"Soccer is a macho sport anywhere in the world, but we know there are homosexual players, just like there are homosexuals in other professions," columnist and TV commentator Antero Greco said. "But sexual orientation should never be a problem as long as the person is competent at what he or she does."
Richarlyson, who has played for four Brazilian clubs and with Red Bull Salzburg in Austria, declined for months to say whether he was gay. Finally, he went on Brazil's most popular weekly news and entertainment program to say he is heterosexual.
"If I was (gay), I wouldn't have any problems admitting it," he said on the Fantastico TV program Sunday night.
Richarlyson Barbosa Felisbino -- like many Brazilian soccer players he goes by one name -- has been a pro player for nine years. He was signed by Sao Paulo in 2005 after failed negotiations with Palmeiras.
The player's lawyer said he believes the public began doubting Richarlyson's sexual orientation after he celebrated a goal against Palmeiras by dancing on the sidelines. Palmeiras fans jeered him since.
Richarlyson doesn't mind that, but he is unwilling to accept insults from a judge.
"This is a disrespect not only to me, it's a disrespect to Brazil," Richarlyson said. "All that matters is if the player can do his job on the field."
Its a damn shame that people would feel this way towards others. So what if he is gay? How does that bother you? People with BIG time on their hands, and SMALL brains in their hands.
Maybe he touched someone's naughty place.
so disrespectful >.<
Maybe he touched someone's naughty place.
Footballers, sorry soccer players do that all the time.
Support a building lord
which all goes to show that the rule of law and democracy in brazil is about as corrupt as anywhere else in latin america