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Brazilian football split by politics as big name players lean right as clubs and fans go left

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By Samindra Kunti

October 9 – Far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro will face Fernando Haddad in a run-off vote for the Brazilian presidency on October 28 in an election that has been marked by the campaign involvement of a large number of Brazilian footballers.

Bolsonaro, a hugely divisive and controversial politician, often considered the Brazilian Donald Trump, won 46% of the vote, falling short of the required 50% +1 to win outright in the first round, but in the process he was supported by Brazilian players including 2002 World Cup winners Rivaldo and Ronaldinho. In contrast clubs have leaned towards Haddad.

Brazilian football and local politics don’t easily mix: the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) operates as an autonomous body, Brazil’s coach Tite shies away from answering questions with a political angle and football players themselves generally stick to politically correct opinions, if any. But Brazil’s elections have been so divisive that both fans and players have been dragged in.

Before Sunday’s elections, supporters from Corinthians, Flamengo and Palmeiras, Brazil’s biggest clubs, issued statements denouncing Bolsonaro, who led in the opinion polls. Bolsonaro is a fan of Palmeiras and Felipe Melo dedicated a recent goal to the politician as “our future president.” Palmeiras issued a statement that Melo’s opinion didn’t reflect the club’s and was personal.

Melo hasn’t been the only footballer to voice his support for Bolsonaro. Tottenham’s Lucas Moura has backed Bolsonaro on Twitter. Rivaldo and Ronaldinho also endorsed him before Sunday’s vote. The latter had long endorsed Bolsonaro in a move that Ronaldinho was heavily criticised for, but as Bolsonaro went from strength to strength Edmundo turned out to be another backer. Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus liked Moura’s pro-Bolsonaro posts on social media.

Bolsonaro has vowed to fight crime and corruption, but the extreme-right politician is best known for his vulgar and deliberately inflammatory quotes about minorities, LGBTs and women. He has also repeatedly said that Brazil’s military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985 didn’t go far enough.

It is the first time since the early 80’s and the Democracia Corinthiana when iconic player Socrates mobilised his fellow Corinthians players and the club in favour of democracy. Bolsonaro will be a strong candidate to win the presidency on October 28 and the influence of football players in his popularity may well be another element of his success.

Contact the writer of this story Samindra Kunti at moc.l1544647113labto1544647113oflro1544647113wedis1544647113ni@of1544647113ni1544647113