With Selekau preparing for their opening World Cup match against Serbia on Thursday, the problem is bigger than the shirt. It was no longer about whether or not fans would ever be able to wear the yellow jersey again, but rather whether they could actually support a team with Neymar in it.
“How can you root for Brazil’s Neymar, despite Neymar?” asked Sandro Macedo, a columnist for Folha de São Paulo, the country’s largest newspaper.
It was absolutely no secret that most of the Brazilian national team supports Bolsonaro, but the Paris Saint-Germain forward went even further in the last elections. After Neymar recorded a video on TikTok announcing that he would support Bolsonaro, rival candidate Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva responded by claiming that the striker was afraid that “what Bolsonaro has forgiven of his income tax debt” would come to light.
Neymar responded by sharing a post on his Instagram story the next day that was eventually reported as fake news. And the 30-year-old didn’t stop there: Two days later, he appeared as a special guest on the president’s live broadcast, saying he’d vote for him because they share the same values.
“We cherish our families, our people, and our children, and that’s why I decided to speak up. I saw that Brazil needed this from me because it would help a lot of people. From now on, I invite everyone who hasn’t taken a stand to take a stand because you have the freedom to express your feelings and your values,” he explained.
Neymar added that he “felt in his heart” that he needed to return the support he received from Bolsonaro “at the most difficult moment of his life.”
In 2019, the president came out publicly in defense of the player when he was accused of sexually assaulting a Brazilian model. The case was eventually dropped but Bolsonaro’s support was not forgotten.