Neymar splits opinion with political message (VIDEO)
Brazilian football icon Neymar has divided opinion in his homeland after backing President Jair Bolsonaro for re-election.
Recent polling has suggested that Bolsonaro could be ousted at the end of his four-year term, with main rival and ex-President Luiz Inacio ‘Lula’ da Silva boasting a 13-percentage-point lead ahead of Sunday’s first round of voting.
On Thursday, Bolsonaro received a much-needed endorsement from one of the football-mad country’s most famous exports when Neymar appeared in a TikTok video dancing along to Bolsonaro’s re-election campaign song.
“Vote, vote, and press ‘confirm’ for 22, that’s Bolsonaro,” says the song. In the video, Neymar is seen miming its words and also holding up two fingers on each hand.
Sharing footage of a clip which features other Brazilians of all ages giving their backing to the president, Bolsonaro thanked Neymar on Twitter.
“Re-election and the Hexa,” Bolsonaro wrote, in reference to winning again at the polls and Brazil lifting a record sixth World Cup trophy in Qatar later this year.
“Cheers, Neymar. Brazil above all, God above everyone,” Bolsonaro added, leaving ‘22’ emojis and those of the Brazilian flag, a football, and a green box with a tick.
Neymar’s appearance spread to social media and was immediately criticized by some compatriot detractors.
“The greatest Brazilian player of this generation supporting the president who ended the Ministry of Sport, cut resources for Olympic athletes, [and] invested less in infrastructure for sports in the country… What's the point of running a social project and ignoring 33 million people who are starving?” asked a producer at the TNT channel, which screens the Champions League in Brazil.
“That’s it, Neymar Jr,” wrote former Corinthians and Brazil star-turned-respected pundit Walter Casagrande in a column for UOL.
“This support video, with dancing, looks like your behavior in the 2018 World Cup, where you just threw yourself on the ground and it was pathetic. Now you’re on the ground again, but with an even more serious matter,” Casagrande added.
Neymar received support of his own from Bolsonaro fans on social media, plus those who pointed to his freedom of expression and right to endorse or vote for whomever he sees fit.
The video marks the second time that Neymar has backed Bolsonaro. In 2019, he featured in a video with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu which also caused a furor in Brazil.
In the past, it has been suggested that Neymar’s leanings towards Bolsonaro caused the split of Brazil’s highest-profile celebrity couple when he and Lula-supporting actress Bruna Marquezine parted ways in October 2018 around the time Bolsonaro won his first term.
Following two friendly victories for Brazil over Ghana and Tunisia in France, Neymar returns to action for his club PSG on Saturday when they take on Nice at home.