Good morning and welcome to the very first edition of the Brazil Sports newsletter! Every Monday, I’ll be bringing you up to date with the big sporting stories in Brazil, picking out a few topics each week to explore in more detail. This week, we’re looking forward to the kick-off of the Women’s World Cup, and the rape allegations against football star Neymar. Happy reading!
Women’s World Cup gets underway in France
The 2019 Women’s World Cup kicks off in France this Friday, and Brazil’s women are going in with a point to prove. Since the Brazilian side played its first global tournament in 1991, it has yet to win a World Cup trophy or Olympic gold medal—coming from the “Land of Football,” this is a problem.
Brazil kick off their campaign on Sunday, facing outsiders Jamaica in Grenoble. Their opponents are the lowest-ranked team in the tournament, making their debut in the World Cup. Also in Brazil’s group are Italy and Australia—who knocked out the Seleção at the last World Cup.
Women’s football is enjoying a popularity boom in Europe. Attendance records were smashed in the Spanish, French, and Italian women’s leagues this year, while the standard of play has never been higher.
In Brazil, while this popularity boost is happening, it is going at a much slower pace. Club football reigns supreme in the country, and even the men’s national side struggles for recognition unless they are playing well and winning trophies. For Brazil’s women, it’s an even steeper climb.
However, the difference in preparation for this year’s tournament has been striking. In the 2015 World Cup, the team arrived in Canada five days before their opening match. This year, the Brazilian football confederation sent the squad on a 15-day training camp in Portugal, accompanied by a sizable press corps. A good showing in France could be a turning point for the sport in Brazil.
Six-time World Player of the Year, 33-year old forward Marta will be going to her fifth World Cup, hoping to extend her lead as the tournament’s all-time top goalscorer. Her chances of doing so suffered a major blow last week, however, as she pulled up with a thigh injury that has sidelined her from training. It is expected that she will miss the opener against Jamaica, but could return in time for game number two.
Police investigation into fraud at Cruzeiro
The Minas Gerais police have opened an inquiry into allegations of forgery, misrepresentation and money laundering at Belo Horizonte football club Cruzeiro. National champions in 2013 and 2014 and cup winners in 2017 and 2018, Cruzeiro are accused of breaking both Fifa rules and Brazilian law, in a case revealed by TV magazine show Fantástico last week.
The main suspicion surrounds a loan agreed with a businessman named Cristiano Richard dos Santos Machado, who in March 2018 lent the club BRL 2m. Just over a month later, Cruzeiro and Mr. Machado signed another contract, alleging that the club would be unable to repay the loan—unsurprising, considering Cruzeiro is currently over USD 130m in debt—and that Mr. Machado would receive his redress in the form of image rights of some of the club’s youth players.
Since 2015, Fifa has stated it is illegal for players to be co-owned by anyone other than clubs or the players themselves. However, Cruzeiro’s case goes one step further, as one of the players whose image rights were shared with Mr. Machado, Estevão William (a highly rated youngster known among the club’s youth setup as “Messinho”), is only 12 years old.
If you’re interested (of course you are), here is a compilation of Messinho’s best moments at Cruzeiro.
Players under 16 are forbidden from signing professional contracts in Brazil, and academy contracts cannot include image rights.
The contract with Mr. Machado is just one of a number of irregularities being investigated by the police, which could result in some heavy punishment for the Minas Gerais club.
Cruzeiro’s administration has never been too far from dodgy dealings in the past. The current head of the club’s board, former Senator Zezé Perrella, was linked to a drug trafficking scandal in 2013 when a helicopter belonging to his family was seized containing over 400 kilograms of cocaine. No member of the Perrella family was indicted in the case, and the pilot was released from jail after six months.
Neymar faces rape allegations
On Saturday, a woman filed a police report in São Paulo accusing Brazil forward Neymar of rape. The document alleges that the plaintiff got to know the footballer on Instagram and was invited to meet with him in Paris on May 15. The report states that Neymar arrived at the accuser’s hotel that evening and “at a certain moment, he became aggressive, and using violence, he had sexual relations against the will” of the accuser.
A police investigation is ongoing and will remain under seal.
On the same day, the player’s father, Neymar Santos Sr., went on live TV to deny the accusations against his son, in a report which disclosed the full name of the accuser, violating police confidentiality.
The footballer himself published a video to his 119m followers, in which he showed the contents of his WhatsApp Messenger conversation with the accuser, including nude pictures of the woman in question.
Brazilian law states that disclosing nude or pornographic images of an individual without their consent is a crime punishable with 1 to 5 years in jail. The civil police of Rio de Janeiro announced that it will open an investigation into the photo leak, and will seize Neymar Jr.’s cellphone for examination.
Also worthy of your time
Série A. Palmeiras remain top of the league after a hard-fought 2-1 win away to Chapecoense. There were home wins for Atlético-MG, Flamengo, and Internacional, while Santos picked up an important three points away to Ceará, in Fortaleza. In Sunday’s Rio derby, Botafogo beat Vasco 1-0, with a second-half goal from Diego Souza.
Super Cup. Athletico-PR lost 3-0 away to River Plate on Thursday night in the final of the Recopa, losing the two-legged tie 3-1. The Recopa is South America’s “super cup”, pitting last year’s winners of the continent’s two most prestigious club tournaments—the Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana—against each other.
VAR disputes. The Brazilian championship is debuting use of VAR technology in 2019, and it hasn’t taken long for the first major scandal to surface. Rio de Janeiro club Botafogo requested the annulment of last week’s 0-1 home defeat to reigning champions Palmeiras. Botafogo claim VAR was used incorrectly to award a penalty to Palmeiras in the 55th minute, which decided the tie. The Brazilian Football Confederation has temporarily suspended the result until the matter is decided.
Flamengo. In a surprise move, Flamengo coach Abel Braga parted ways with the club on Wednesday after falling out with the board. Braga spoke of “betrayal” behind the scenes and said he was “not prepared for cowardice and scheming” when he took the job at the end of 2018. Working quickly, the Rio giants have lined up Portuguese coach Jorge Jesus (formerly of Benfica and Sporting) as his replacement. Flamengo currently sit 4th in the league, beating Fortaleza 2-0 on Saturday evening with a brace from Gabriel Barbosa.
Champions. Brazilian internationals Alisson, Fabinho, and Roberto Firmino lifted the UEFA Champions League trophy on Saturday, after beating Tottenham 2-0 in Madrid. The last time any club won the tournament without a Brazilian player in their squad was 2005. Who were the champions that year? Liverpool!
NBA House. The first two games of this year’s NBA finals took place last week, with the Toronto Raptors going out in front, but being pegged back by the Golden State Warriors in last night’s Game Two. Support for the NBA is growing in Brazil, with thousands of fans in São Paulo piling into the “NBA House”—a special event space with huge screens and plenty of activities for fans—to watch both games.
Nations League. Brazil’s men made a superb start to the volleyball Nations League, beating the U.S., Australia, and Poland this week. The women had a mixed round, recording wins against the Netherlands and bottom-ranked Bulgaria, but suffering a troubling defeat against Poland, one of the surprise packages of this year’s competition. Brazil is currently 4-2 and sits in 5th place in the overall ranking.
Goal of the Week. In the first of his impressive double against Fortaleza on Saturday night, Flamengo’s Gabriel Barbosa rounded off this superb team move.
Women’s World Cup
- Brazil vs Jamaica (Sun. 10:30)
Copa do Brasil
- Flamengo vs Corinthians (Tue. 21:30)
- Santos vs Atlético-MG (Wed. 20:00)
- Cruzeiro vs Fluminense (Thu. 19:15)
Palmeiras vs Athletico-PR (Sat. 16:30)
Cruzeiro vs Corinthians (Sat. 19:00)
Fluminense vs Flamengo (Sun. 19:00)