Referees blowing the whistle on Ronaldinho’s pyramid selling

. Feb 17, 2020
Welcome back to the Brazil Sports newsletter! This week, Ronaldinho latest advertising foray which has him in hot water with the courts. Corinthians dumped out of the Copa Libertadores in a night full of surprises and coincidences. That and much more. Enjoy your read! Ronaldinho. Photo: Fabio Diena/Shutterstock

Welcome back to the Brazil Sports newsletter! This week, Ronaldinho Gaucho’s latest advertising foray which has him in hot water with the courts. Corinthians dumped out of the Copa Libertadores in a night full of surprises and coincidences. That and much more. Enjoy your read!

Ronaldinho’s pyramid schemes

Twice World Player of the Year Ronaldinho Gaúcho has been made a defendant in a civil class action demanding he pay BRL 300 million in damages for his involvement with the company 18kRonaldinho, which sold “luxury experiences” including beach holidays, watches and cars in a textbook pyramid scheme.

Fingers in all the pies. Since his effective retirement from football in 2015, Ronaldinho has been involved in a seemingly neverending list of half-cocked marketing ventures. From grand exhibition matches all over the world, to mobile phone games and even a brief music career, Ronaldinho will apparently get involved in anything if the price is right.

18kRonaldinho. The company in question worked by attracting clients with initial investments of BRL 999, and giving them four watches to sell, valued at BRL 600 each. The structure then followed the classic trappings of pyramid selling, with vendors receiving bonuses based on the number of other people they are able to bring into the company. Over time, as the members “climb” the pyramid, they gain the right to sell other products and the chance to win a number of prizes, including beach holidays and expensive cars.

Damage. Members didn’t receive direct salaries or profits from the company, instead holding accounts with points that could be exchanged for Bitcoin. When public prosecutors identified that 18kRonaldinho showed signs of pyramid selling, the company’s assets were frozen, the footballer abandoned the firm, and hundreds of members lost access to their revenue. The class-action suit seeks to recover this amount, and holds Ronaldinho as responsible.

Unstoppable. Apparently not bothered by the allegations and the court proceedings against him, Ronaldinho was seen on social media last week advertising for another shady enterprise: this time investment broker LBLV, which had its operating license suspended last year by Brazil’s Securities Commission.

Bolsonaro. Another case of Ronaldinho dipping his toes into the waters of fields beyond the football pitch came in 2018, when he endorsed the candidacy of eventual presidential victor Jair Bolsonaro and even toyed with the idea of running for Senate under Mr. Bolsonaro’s political umbrella. Though not going as far as standing for public office, Ronaldinho did accept an invitation to work as an ambassador for the federal government’s tourism office—though, at the time he had had his passport seized for unpaid environmental fines.

Corinthians and the “magic” of the Copa Libertadores

Corinthians, the most popular club in São Paulo, were dumped out of the Copa Libertadores on Wednesday night, losing on away goals to Paraguayan side Guaraní. Besides being a shock defeat for a traditional South American giant, the elimination is also an excellent example of the nature of the Copa Libertadores, which is both unpredictable and absolutely inevitable in equal measures.

Home disadvantage. Corinthians were knocked out in front of their home fans despite winning 2-1, yet going down on the away goals rule. Despite being opened in 2014, the Arena Corinthians has already been the stage of the most Copa Libertadores eliminations in Corinthians’ history, being knocked out four times at home.

What are the odds? Wednesday’s defeat was even more serendipitous for other reasons. Not only were Corinthians dumped out by Guaraní once before—in the last 16 of the 2015 tournament—but the crucial goalscorer for the Paraguayans five years ago (Fernando Fernández) also scored the decisive away goal last week.

Coincidence? Corinthians think not. Another curious fact about Wednesday’s match was the presence of Argentinian referee Néstor Pitana. The official has now overseen Corinthians’ last four eliminations in the Copa Libertadores, including the 2015 game against Guaraní. And his involvement hasn’t been overseen by Corinthians fans either, as he has been at the center of a number of questionable decisions against the São Paulo side.

On Wednesday, young winger Pedrinho—who we praised last week …—was sent off in the first half for two somewhat innocent yet largely justifiable yellow cards. In the second half, Pitana gave Guaraní a questionable free-kick in a dangerous area which led to Fernández’s winning goal. After the game, the referee had to be given a police escort out of the stadium.

Magic of the cup. Behind the curious coincidences of Corinthians’ exit, the unexpected result is just another upset in the history of South America’s biggest tournament. Not since the early 2000s has a team won the trophy two years in a row, while there have been 27 different finalists since 2000.

What else you should know

Supercopa. This weekend saw the return of Brazil’s Super Cup, contested between national champions Flamengo and cup winners Athletico-PR. Brazil’s football confederation hopes to make the event Brazil’s “Super Bowl,” but it was largely ignored by the average football fan. Flamengo strolled to a 3-0 win in the national stadium in Brasilia, with President Jair Bolsonaro in attendance, accompanied by Justice Minister Sergio Moro and Human Rights Minister Damares Alves.

Sven-Göran Eriksson. With Keisuke Honda signing for Botafogo, Emmanuel Adebayor going to Paraguayan side Olimpia, and Yaya Touré reportedly in talks for a move to the continent, South American football has had what we may call a curious transfer window. The latest surprise is the news that Swedish coach Sven-Göran Eriksson—who managed at three World Cups with England and Côte d’Ivoire—is in talks to become director of football at third division Brazilian club Botafogo-PB. The Swedish coach posted a video on social media, speaking Portuguese and addressing Botafogo-PB president Sérgio Meira, confirming the two are in talks.

Robert Scheidt. 46-year-old sailor Robert Scheidt has sealed qualification for this year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo. The two-time gold medallist will now be heading to his seventh Olympics, disputing in the men’s Laser class, where he finished fourth in Rio 2016. 

Women’s football. Reigning champions Ferroviária moved into first place in the league table with a 4-1 win away to mid-table Palmeiras. They could be joined by Santos or Cruzeiro—who face off this evening—and Corinthians, who play Audax-SP tonight to extend their record-breaking 47-game unbeaten streak.

Streaming in the family. With national champions Flamengo still in negotiations with TV Globo for the rights to broadcast their matches this year, the club’s games in the Rio de Janeiro state championships have been unavailable on both terrestrial, cable, and pay-per-view channels. As a result, fans have taken it on themselves to live stream the games from the stadium, including, strangely enough, the sister of Flamengo midfielder Gerson, Geyse Santos.

Euan Marshall

Originally from Scotland, Euan Marshall is a journalist who ditched his kilt and bagpipes for a caipirinha and a football in 2011, when he traded Glasgow for São Paulo. Specializing in Brazilian soccer, politics and the connection between the two, he authored a comprehensive history of Brazilian soccer entitled “A to Zico: An Alphabet of Brazilian Football.”

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