Sao Paulo, Sept 15 (AP/UNB) — Often reticent to become embroiled in Brazilian politics, soccer players are making rare interventions as a far-right candidate's presidential campaign polarizes the country.
Felipe Melo, a fiery former Juventus midfielder who is back in Sao Paulo playing for Palmeiras, has been openly campaigning for Jair Bolsonaro ahead of the October election.
A former army captain, Bolsonaro has taken the lead in the polls after appealing to concerns about public security, religious conservativism, homophobia and anti-left politics. Just a month before the elections, Bolsonaro was stabbed while campaigning on Sept. 6. His attacker claimed to be upset about racial slurs made by the candidate and was "sent by God" to attack Bolsonaro.
After undergoing two surgeries, Bolsonaro is recovering at a hospital in Sao Paulo, but he can rely on soccer players to promote his platform.
Melo, who played at the 2010 World Cup for Brazil, posted a video online this week wishing Bolsonaro a speedy recovery. Another message was sent on social media to Lucas Moura after the winger, who plays in the English Premier League for Tottenham, was met with praise — and criticism — for endorsing Bolsonaro.
"Good one, Lucas," Melo wrote. "Let's go Bolsonaro, it doesn't matter what they say."
The backlash is not deterring other stars of the national sport from voicing support. Bolsonaro's list of backers also features 2002 World Cup winner Cafu and Corinthians midfielder Jadson.
But they are facing resistance from players they have previously shared a field with.
Elias, a midfielder at Belo Horizonte club Atletico Mineiro, said he would never vote for the far-right candidate, but argued footballers have to be more tolerant with those who will.
"I don't vote for Bolsonaro, but we have to tolerate who do," Elias said. "That tolerance is also in a low in soccer."
Brazil and Lyon midfielder Juninho has entered into several spats with Bolsonaro's supporters on Twitter.
"I didn't know Bolsonaro voters followed me," Juninho said. "Please, don't. I don't want a high number of followers, I want those that are human beings of character."
One month before the vote, it is still unclear whether footballers that dislike Bolsonaro are convincing their teammates the candidate is not a good option.
Walter Casagrande, a European Cup winner with Porto in 1987 who is now a pundit on Brazilian TV, had to change his phone number after criticizing players who would not explain in detail why they endorsed Bolsonaro.
"We live in a democracy and everyone has the right to their opinions. But they have to know what they are talking about," Casagrande said. "They can endorse any candidate, but once they go public they have to tell why. It is not enough to say 'I endorse this guy.' As soccer heroes they influence a lot of people."
The national team's biggest star, Neymar, has steered clear of making any public statements about the election. Four years ago he endorsed right-leaning Aecio Neves, who narrowly lost to the re-elected president, Dilma Rousseff.
The world's most expensive footballer was busy playing for Brazil for the first time since the World Cup.
Here is a look at some talking points from the international fixtures over the last week:
Neymar was handed the captaincy by Brazil coach Tite for matches against the United States and El Salvador, but his conduct on the field remains divisive.
Just like at the World Cup, where Brazil was eliminated in the quarterfinals, a dive by Neymar has prompted criticism. The booking in the 2-0 win against the U.S. could be a wake-up call for Neymar to cut out the theatrics.
Brazil had a scoring rival during the international break. Richarlison of English side Everton also scored twice wearing the No. 9 jersey. Barcelona's Arthur impressed as a playmaker and Eder Militao was robust in central defense as Brazil scored six and conceded no goals in the two friendlies.
"One of the best things I saw is the return of a team that plays with joy," Tite said after the 4-0 win against El Salvador in Washington D.C. "We were aggressive and created opportunities, regardless of the opponent's form. This team has a goal-scoring DNA."
ARGENTINA'S MESSI WAIT
Argentina played without a No. 10 in a 3-0 victory over Guatemala and a 0-0 draw with Colombia because Lionel Messi opted against linking up with the squad. It's unclear if the 31-year-old, five-time world player of the year will retire from international duty. Argentina's next game is in October against Brazil in Saudi Arabia.
Paris, Sept 15 (AP/UNB) — Paris Saint-Germain's margin is so big that the reigning champions don't even need Kylian Mbappe and Neymar to thrash rival French teams.
PSG got ready for next week's Champions League opener at Liverpool with a 4-0 win over Saint-Etienne at the Parc des Princes on Friday, extending its perfect record to five league games.
Mbappe served the first of his three-match ban while Neymar was rested by coach Thomas Tuchel after playing with Brazil in a friendly game against El Salvador midweek in the United States.
Without his two star players, Tuchel gave Julian Draxler a start, a move that paid off as the German international put the hosts in front with a header in the 22nd minute after a long pass by Marco Verrati.
Edinson Cavani made it 2-0 in the 51st after being fouled in the area for his third goal this season, and Angel Di Maria added the third near the end with a powerful left-footed shot from a tight angle. Substitute forward Moussa Diaby completed the win with his first goal in the top tier in the 84th.
PSG handed 10-time champion Saint-Etienne its first loss this season and extended its lead over second-placed Dijon to six points. Dijon hosts Angers on Saturday.
Tuchel, who was appointed this summer as a replacement for Unai Emery, set a new club record by becoming the first coach to win his five opening league matches in his first season.
Earlier, Nice defeated Rennes 2-1 with goals by Allan Saint-Maximin and Pierre Lees-Melou.
Dhaka, Sept 14 (UNB) – Vietnam will play the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the opening Group F match of the AFC U-16 Women’s Championship at Bir Shreshta Shaheed Sepoy Mohammad Mostafa Kamal Stadium in Kamalapur on Saturday.
The match will kick-off at 11:30 am.
Two Middle East nations Lebanon and Bahrain will lock horn with each other in the other opening day’s match at 3:30 pm at the same venue.
Hosts Bangladesh, which were placed in Group F of the championship along with the UAE, Vietnam, Bahrain and Lebanon, will play their first match against Bahrain on September 17 at 3:30 pm.
They will meet Lebanon on September 19 at 11:30 am, the UAE on September 21 at 3:30 pm and Vietnam in the last group match on September 23 at 3:30 pm.
In a pre-tournament press conference at BFF office on Friday, head coach and captains of all participating teams promised to play good football terming Vietnam and hosts Bangladesh as favorites.
Head Coach of Vietnam Nguiyen Thi Mai Lan, Captain Thi Hoa, Head Coach UAE Houriya Al Taheri, Head Coach of Lebanon Hagop Demirdjias, Captain Rida Wahhab, Head Coach of Bahrain Khaled Hasan, Head Coach of Bangladesh Golam Rabbani Chotan and Captain Maria Manda also spoke on the occasion.
Meanwhile, the AFC made some changes in their previous format. Six group champion teams along with two best group runners-up will play in the eight-team 2nd round in two groups.
Later, four top teams of the 2nd round will play in the eight-team title deciding final round in Bangkok alongside North Korea, South Korea, Japan and hosts Thailand.
Dhaka, Sept 14 (UNB) – Bangladesh’s trailblazing golfer Siddikur Rahman made cut in the approximate US$1,000,000 purse of the 34th Shinhan Donghae Open placing joint 45th spot after the second round at Bear's Best Cheongna Golf Club in Incheon, South Korea on Friday.
Carding an even-par-71 on the second day, Siddikur aggregated two-under-par 140, seven shots behind the joint leaders -- Sanghyun Park and Hyungjoon Lee of South Korea and the Philippines’ Miguel Tabuena.
Among the leaders, Sanghyun Park carded a three-under-par 68 on the second day to maintain his top position, following the solo leadership with nine-under after first round of the flagship.
Siddikur traded two birdies and one bogy in each 9 and saw the only double bogey in the 12th hole on the day to share his spot with five other golfers, slipping from joint the 18th spot.
Dhaka, Sept 14 (UNB) – Vietnam will play the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the opening Group F match of the AFC U-16 Women’s Championship at the Bir Shreshta Shaheed Sepoy Mohammad Mostafa Kamal Stadium in Kamalapur on Saturday.
The match will kicks-off at 11:30 am.
The two Middle-East nations Lebanon and Bahrain will lock horn with each other in the other opening day’s fixture 3:30 pm at the same venue
Hosts Bangladesh, which were placed in Group F of the AFC U-16 Women’s Championship along with the UAE, Vietnam, Bahrain and Lebanon, will play their first match against Bahrain on September 17 at 3:30 pm
The will meet Lebanon on September 19 at 11:30 am, the UAE on September 21 at 3:30 pm and face Vietnam in the last group match on September 23 at 3:30 pm.
In a pre-tournament press conference at BFF office on Friday, head coach and captains of all five participating teams promised to play a good football, terming Vietnam and hosts Bangladesh as favorites.
Head Coach of Vietnam Nguiyen Thi Mai Lan, Captain Thi Hoa, Head Coach UAE Houriya Al Taheri, Head Coach of Lebanon Hagop Demirdjias, Captain Rida Wahhab, Head Coach of Bahrain Khaled Hasan, Head Coach of Bangladesh Golam Rabbani Chotan and Captain Maria Manda spoke on the occasion.
Meanwhile, the AFC made some changes this time in their previous format. Six group champion teams along with two best group runners-up will play in the eight-team 2nd round in two groups.