Brazilian footballers express political views – you wot!?

Felipe Melo backs Jair Bolsonaro for President

It is unusual for footballers to express their political opinions. It is even stranger when they publicly back a turd sandwich.

Brazilians go to the polls on Sunday and the election is dividing the country like never before. To be honest, it has been divided for some time between those that support the PT, the left-wing workers party, and those against them. What’s changed is that the after years of corruption scandals, rising crime and the economy eventually hitting the rocks under PT rule, the anti-PT brigade are angry. Very angry. They got their way when the former President Dilma was impeached, and booted out a few years ago, but since then things have got even worse and the centrist, Michel Temer, who replaced her, has done an even worse job: his approval rating is 5%! That’s correct: 19 out of every 20 people think that he is a completely useless donkey.

PT are weak and their current candidate, Fernando Haddad, is relatively unknown. With the anti-PT group angry, and the centre ground seen by voters as either too boring, or themselves corrupt, the anti-PT group has found a new darling: Jair Bolsonaro. Change can often be a good thing. But voting for Mr Bolsonaro would mean voting for a guy who publicly told a woman that she was so ugly that he wouldn’t rape her, has said that he would rather have a dead son than a gay son and who publicly flirts with the idea of returning Brazil to military rule; he made a name for himself by praising the torturers of left-wing activists during Brazil’s military dictatorship. Is that a good change?

I’m not sure if Mr Bolonsonaro’s policies have been very well thought out either. After all, he once said that one of Brazil’s former Presidents should be shot for privatising domestic industries, yet he now proposes doing exactly the same thing (but on steroids) himself. Despite such inconsistencies and the inflammatory remarks, he looks set to pick up more than 30% of the vote in Sunday’s election, more than any other candidate. That won’t be enough to win the election outright, so a second round runoff on 28th of October looks likely, which will probably pit him against Mr Haddad. Brazilians looks set to choose between douche and a turd sandwich.

The fact that several high-profile footballers have publicly expressed their support for the far right candidate, Jair Bolsonaro, raises several questions. Okay, it wasn’t really a surprise to me when I found out that Felipe Melo was backing Mr Bolsonaro. Tough guy votes for tough guy. That Mr Bolsonaro supports Palmeiras is a bonus for Felipe Melo too. It is harder to understand why Lucas Moura – not a tough guy, and an immigrant, who earns a good living plying his trade in a stable democracy – supports a guy who is flirting with the idea of returning Brazil to military rule.

Cafu, Jadson and Roger are also backing Mr Bolsonaro. The latter two play for Corinthians, a team whose supports have ties to the left and whom the legendary Socrates played for while publicly campaigning to end to military rule in the late 70s and early 80s. According to Andrew Downie, who wrote a biography about Socrates, the former player, who has now passed away, would be shocked by the modern-day footballers’ support of Bolsonaro and authoritarianism. A few other Brazilian celebrities have backed Bolsonaro too, but most of the country’s celebrities and artists back one of the left wing or centrist candidates. Why the footballing support for Mr Bolsonaro?

Pissed off with the status quo. Many in society want change. Yes, but in addition to Bolsonaro, there are another 11 non-PT candidates to choose from.

They are extremely right wing. Many Brazilian footballers are religious and have deeply conservative social values. Ironic though, given some of Bolsonaro’s statements.

The modern footballer doesn’t care where they came from. This is Andrew Dowie’s theory, which is hard to disagree with. Most Brazilian footballers come from very humble backgrounds – it is lamentable how few of them champion social issues and how little they give back to where they came from.

They like the idea of a military dictatorship. Perhaps they are confusing strong man and strongman.

They haven’t thought this through very well. Always a possibility.

The bottom line is that it is a sad state of affairs when half of the country is set to vote for somebody because they can’t stand the other side. And it’s an even worse state of affairs when the whole country does that. That may well be the case tomorrow, and again on the 28th of October.

It often strikes how people can be so nice to each other, get along and love each other, but how politics are so divisive. This isn’t just happening in Brazil: instead of being concerned about the public good, politicians all over the world are driving a large wedge between people to serve their own interests. It would be a sad irony if Brazilians and their footballers exercise their democratic right by picking a new president who takes away their freedom to vote.

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