Wednesday, August 15, 2007


(Sao Paulo, Brazil) The director of a prominent soccer club insinuates on national television that a player on a rival team is gay. The player sues for slander and goes on TV to deny being homosexual. A judge causes an uproar by saying gays don't belong in Brazilian soccer.

With a narrative like a Latin American telenovela, a controversy over the questioned sexual orientation of Sao Paulo midfielder Richarlyson has shaken one of Brazil's most hallowed institutions - soccer - with insults, blanket accusations of homophobia and unsolicited defences for supposedly closeted gay teammates.

It all started in June when Palmeiras club director Jose Cyrillo Junior was asked on a national TV program whether it was true that a soccer player from his team was negotiating for an exclusive television interview to announce that he was homosexual.

Cyrillo denied the report, but added "Richarlyson 'almost' played for Palmeiras," suggesting the 24 year old ninth year pro was gay.

Cyrillo later apologized, but Richarlyson filed a criminal complaint for slander, saying he was wrongly accused of being gay.

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 was homosexual. If he wasn't, the judge said, Richarlyson was obliged to defend himself on the same TV program where he was accused.

"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 that 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 of homosexuals out in the open in Brazil, a country where gays are generally tolerated but usually not in soccer and are 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.

"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 different Brazilian clubs and with Red Bull Salzburg in Austria, declined for months to address the issue of whether he was gay, but finally went on Brazil's most popular weekly news and entertainment program to say that he is heterosexual.

"If I was (homosexual), I wouldn't have any problems admitting it," he said on the Fantastico TV program.

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 have constantly jeered him since.

Richarlyson said he doesn't mind the fans' behavior, but he still isn't willing to accept the 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."

Associated Press

1 comment:

RIC said...

The issue is only emerging in the hispanic, latin, macho world of football... That happens especially when you run too much and think too little...
I can feel it around here as well... Hard times are yet to come.