Er now want to give something back. What exactly, Neymar does not say. But that doesn’t matter for the core of his message: The football star will vote for the right-wing populist Jair Bolsonaro in the runoff election for Brazil’s presidential office on Sunday. So not for Bolsonaro’s challenger Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, with whom many Brazilians hope for a better future. But for the incumbent who has not once made disparaging remarks about blacks, gays, women or indigenous people. For the man who has been sharply criticized for his handling of the corona pandemic with 680,000 deaths in Brazil.
How could Neymar choose someone like that, some are outraged. The others think it’s great that the number 10 in the Seleção is publicly speaking out for him. Because things are not that simple. Brazilians are more divided over the upcoming election than perhaps ever in their history. “Brazil, hate and hope” is the title of the political scientist João Nunes’ most recent article in the Portuguese daily “Público”. And Neymar is now in the thick of it. Neymar of all people. The footballer gifted with the greatest talent of his generation who divides Brazilians unlike the greats Pelé, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho before him.
Enigmatic thanks to the President
With a huge headset on his head, the 30-year-old sits in front of his computer. He is known as a gambler, not only on the field, but also in front of the home PC. But now the Paris Saint-Germain striker was connected to his president. In a joint online broadcast with Bolsonaro, he explains his support for the right-wing head of state. “I want to thank the President. In the most difficult moment of my life, the President was the first to publicly back me,” said Neymar. He doesn’t say exactly what he means. But now he wants to give it back.
In 2019, Neymar was accused of rape by a model. The 67-year-old Bolsonaro was convinced of Neymar’s innocence at the time. The investigation was later dropped due to lack of evidence. Bolsonaro’s rival Lula, on the other hand, suspects other motives. “I think he’s afraid that if he wins the election, I’ll find out what kind of income tax debt Bolsonaro has forgiven him,” said the left-wing former president (2003-2010). He did not present any evidence. Neymar’s father rejected the allegations via Instagram as false.
Whatever the case, Brazil is torn before a landmark election, and few embody that tornado better than Neymar. Some love him for the incredible things he can do with the ball. Others, including many of his countrymen, despise him for acting and swallows. It fits the campaign. Some see Bolsonaro as a bulwark against left-wing ideologies and defenders of personal freedoms. Others despise him for the division of his country that he has fueled with hate and hatred. Lula, on the other hand, is seen by many as a beacon of hope, but on the other hand his name is closely linked to far-reaching corruption scandals.
Both candidates are fighting for every vote in the last few days before the runoff election. In the first round of voting in early October, Bolsonaro did surprisingly well, contrary to the polls. The race is now completely open. Nevertheless, Neymar has already prepared for an election victory for the incumbent. Should Bolsonaro win, he said he will dedicate his first goal at the upcoming World Cup in Qatar to him. He thinks: “That would be really wonderful: Bolsonaro re-elected, Brazil champion and everyone happy.”
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