Money talks as Santos bin Robinho

. Oct 19, 2020
rape case santos football Robinho signs his contract ... which was voided after six days. Photo: Ivan Storti/Santos FC

Welcome back to another edition of the Brazil Sports newsletter. This week, Santos sack Robinho after rape outcry, and Brazil’s World Cup TV rights at risk with new Fifa rule. Enjoy your read!

Robinho sees Santos contract torn up after rape scandal

Last week, we covered the scandal surrounding São Paulo football club Santos and their signing of former Brazilian national team star Robinho — convicted of rape in an ongoing case in Italy. The issue now appears to have been put to bed for the time being, with Santos ceding to public pressure and tearing up Robinho’s contract, but not before the story took on further gruesome turns.

Journalism decides the match. At the time of last week’s Brazil Sports newsletter, it appeared that the battle lines were drawn. Santos and their fans were adamant in their defense of Robinho and would persist with his signing, while the majority of the press, pundits, and fans of other clubs continued their protest. Journalists and commentators pledged to ignore his name on the team sheet while covering Santos matches, and some fans launched an informal pledge on Twitter for opposition players to intentionally injure Robinho on the pitch.

  • On Friday, however, the story was turned on its head. Sports news website Globoesporte published an exposé authored by journalist Lucas Ferraz, who got a hold of the court order that convicted Robinho in 2017, including transcriptions of damning phone calls between Robinho and a friend, which led to the Italian courts finding him guilty.

Warning. The content of the transcriptions is sensitive and explicit, and reader discretion is advised.

  • In January 2014, upon being told about the rape investigation by his friend, musician Jairo Chagas, Robinho replies: “I’m laughing because I couldn’t care less. The woman was completely drunk, she doesn’t know what happened.”
  • Asked whether he “also had sex” with the victim, he replies: “No, I tried to.” When Mr. Chagas replies that he saw Robinho putting his penis into the victim’s mouth, the footballer replied, “that’s not having sex.”

“I’m the victim.” Later that day, newspaper Folha de S. Paulo published WhatsApp audio messages sent by Robinho to his friends, in which he claims that he is the victim of a smear campaign by TV Globo — Brazil’s largest media conglomerate. “Did you see what [Globo] did to [President Jair] Bolsonaro before the election? Saying that Bolsonaro was racist, fascist, a murderer? (…) These people are being used by the devil. We know TV Globo is the devil’s channel, just look at the soap operas they broadcast.”

Robinho also promised to pay tribute to President Bolsonaro after scoring his first goal for Santos. “I’m gonna wear a shirt that says ‘Globo is trash. Bolsonaro was right.'”

No way back. The content of Robinho’s leaked conversations swayed most of the player’s most adamant defenders, making it clear that his future at Santos would be made impossible. The club’s sponsors threatened to pull out, and Santos quickly pulled the plug on Robinho’s contract. The player now claims to be focusing on clearing his name in Italy, despite having actively avoiding setting foot in the country since his original trial began.

TV debacle surrounds World Cup qualifiers

On Tuesday, Brazilian football fans were faced with an unprecedented situation. As their national team was about to take on Peru in a World Cup qualifier held in Lima, no free-to-air television stations had purchased the rights to broadcast the match. Turner Latin America — a subsidiary of the Time Warner Group — were the sole buyers of the rights and scheduled its broadcast for the Esporte Interativo streaming service. This was to be the first time that a competitive Brazil match was not shown on free-to-air television to the entire country.

New system for TV rights. Media giant TV Globo has always bought up the rights to show Brazil’s World Cup qualifying matches on free-to-air television. However, a recommendation from Fifa has seen a change in the method of purchasing — instead of buying up the rights to the entire tournament, each match is now negotiated separately, with national football associations holding ownership of permissions to show all of their country’s home matches.

As a result, TV Globo decided against buying the rights to Peru v. Brazil, saying that the asking price of the Peruvian Football Federation (FPF) was excessively high.

Government to the… rescue? The matter was resolved only hours before kick-off, after the Bolsonaro government’s communications secretary Fabio Wajngarten declared he had made an official request for the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) to purchase the rights and show the match on public channel TV Brasil. The amount spent on the deal was not disclosed.

Misuse of public TV. The TV Brasil broadcast was an odd one, with the commentator sending “hugs to President Jair Bolsonaro” on a number of occasions during the match, which goes against the public station’s statute of political neutrality.

More to come? Indeed, there is a chance this scenario will be repeated throughout the tournament. For Brazil’s coming matches, home ties will be broadcast by TV Globo, while the media giants also snapped up the rights to show all of Argentina’s home games — ensuring access to Argentina v. Brazil on November 16 of next year.

What else you should know

  • Pelé turns 80. Edson Arantes do Nascimento, Pelé, turns 80 years old on Friday. As Brazil’s undisputed greatest footballer of all time, next week’s Brazil Sports newsletter will feature a special look back on his career and legacy.
  • Carol Solberg. After being reported to the Superior Court of Sports Justice (STJD) for shouting “Bolsonaro, out!” during a live post-match interview, beach volleyball player Carol Solberg was issued a BRL 1,000 (USD 179) fine, but escaped a ban from competing. Prior cases of volleyball players showing their support for President Bolsonaro went completely unpunished.
  • Big Phil at Cruzeiro. World Cup-winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has made a return to management in Brazil, taking over struggling giants Cruzeiro, in the second division. Scolari had been out of work since being fired from his third spell at São Paulo club Palmeiras, in September of last year.
  • Corinthians’ new shirt. São Paulo giants Corinthians debuted their new third kit this weekend, a brown, blue, and pink number inspired by English non-league side Corinthians Casuals — from which the Brazilian side got its name. However, the new shirt didn’t bring the team any luck, falling to a 5-1 loss at home to Flamengo.
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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