Even Pelé himself suffered from this toxic scourge since he was a teenager recently arrived at Santos. Before becoming a planetary myth, he was contemptuously nicknamed “Gasoline” because of his skin tone. “If they had to stop every game where someone called me a ‘macaco’ they would have had to stop every game I played,” he used to say. At the dawn of the 20th century, soccer in Brazil was an incipient elitist phenomenon closed to blacks. It would be time until “the people suddenly discovered that football should be of all colors, football without classes, all mixed up, very Brazilian”, as the famous journalist Mario Filho wrote in 1947 in his book The black in Brazilian footballa classic of national literature.
Thousands of black players of various generations found in soccer an element of social ascension, when not of pure survival and always threatened by the plague of racism. Racial prejudice persists in a country in which more than half the population declares itself black or mixed-race, with enormous levels of inequality and which reached harmful levels of political and ideological polarization in recent years with the rise to power of the far-right Jair Bolsonaro. When Lula Da Silva regained the Brazilian presidency in January, he signed a law that equates racial slander to the crime of racism, which is imprescriptible, cannot be bailed and carries harsh prison sentences. The Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) was already then reviewing its measures against racism. And it had the close collaboration of the Observatory on Racial Discrimination in Soccer, an entity that since 2014 has monitored all acts of racism, homophobia, misogyny and xenophobia in stadiums with detailed annual reports that illustrate the enormous magnitude of the problem.
Marcelo Carvalho, director and founder of the Observatory, estimated 90 racist incidents in Brazilian soccer in 2022 and affirms that these higher numbers than those of previous years respond to the fact that there are more complaints. “The pact of silence has been broken. And they are also the result of a greater awareness of fans, players and the press”. The number of sanctions against clubs for episodes of racism was derisory until recently. A single club, Gremio de Porto Alegre, was eliminated from the Brazil Cup in 2014 due to racist insults that a large group of twisters They dedicated it to Aranha, Santos goalkeeper.
Ednaldo Rodrigues, the first black and northeastern president of the CBF, who has promoted the new regulations in force since February, pointed out that “racial discrimination is a crime.” “Our job is to shed light on the issue. We really hope to have the support of the clubs, of the fans, of all segments of society, of all the press, so that this is not just for decoration”, he added. Rodrigues had an ace up his sleeve: he did not submit the new penalty regime to a vote among professional clubs and included it directly in the new 2023 Competition Regulations, valid for all categories and mandatory.
The CBF thus establishes a new sanctioning structure for racist acts, whether committed by the public or by any member of the clubs. It contemplates financial sanctions to the club (whether local or visiting, and even if it is a single fan who utters a racist insult) and strong sporting sanctions against players, coaches, referees, employees or managers involved in an act of racist offense. In case of serious reiteration (such as a considerable group of people insulting) the closure of the stadium is contemplated. And also the loss of points in the competition, something that is not included in the regulations of any European federation. The penalties will be administratively imposed by the CBF. The cases will be referred to the STJD (Superior Court of Sports Justice), which will judge on the application of a fine, closure of the field or loss of points to the offending club.
In addition, the minutes of the match, the reports of the CBF and the clubs will be sent to the Public Ministry and the Civil Police so that the process goes beyond the sports sphere. The new protocol has already been activated: on May 7, in the match between Athletico Paranaense and Flamengo, a fan of the local club dedicated monkey-like gestures to the visiting fans. The club itself, which in its stadium encourages people to report racist acts or abuses through QR codes visible in all the stands, identified the culprit and the STJD Court (according to a CBF report) has proposed an economic sanction to the club and a minimum of 720 days without being able to enter the stadium for the fan. The formula contemplates expediting all instances: the trial will be at the end of this month. The Minister of Sports Ana Moser, who these days showed the solidarity of the Brazilian government with Vinicius Jr, publicly congratulated the CBF for its initiatives to combat racial discrimination.
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