Just as Brazil commemorates the National Day for Combating Violence against Women, Santos announced the signing of Robinho, sentenced in 2017 to nine years in prison for the gang rape of a young Albanian woman in Italy. Although the sentence is still in the appeal phase, it is still an unfortunate coincidence for the club that, recently, was proud to promote campaigns in favor of women and supported the fight against sexist violence.
At the end of August, in conjunction with the Fala Mulher Association and the Sono Quality company, Santos used data from the Rio de Janeiro Court of Justice that showed that gender violence had increased 50% during the pandemic, to publicize the toll-free number 180, which functions as a channel for complaints and specific attention for women. Already in November of last year, the club recalled that, every four minutes, a woman suffers an attack in Brazil and stated in a publication that “the fault is never the victim.”
It can be argued that, at the time of these campaigns, the Santos was chaired by José Carlos Peres, removed from office by a process of impeachment. However, Peres himself did not seem ashamed when he offered Robinho a four-year contract, as soon as he was elected, arguing that he had “an interest in having great idols.” At that time, the forward had just been convicted in the first instance by the Italian justice and was part of Atlético MG. In Belo Horizonte, fans of that club protested against the player and the leadership, who preferred not to pronounce on the sentence. Worried about the consequences of the possible signing, Peres backed down, assuring that his management would value women and that he would like to have “athletes with a good image”.
The former president was succeeded by Orlando Rollo, who celebrated the return of Robinho this Saturday, reverenced him as an idol. Before closing the deal, the current owner of the club announced that the details of the negotiation were of a purely financial nature without citing, at any time, the conviction for rape against the player. It is striking that the club, which is positioned in defense of women’s rights, is subjected to such wear, putting its social responsibility in check in the name of a technical reinforcement for the cast.
Robinho’s defense argues that there is still an appeal pending. “The trial did not end,” says the athlete’s lawyer, Marisa Alija. Obviously, Robinho must be tried according to legal process, like any other defendant. You have the right to the presumption of innocence until all remedies are exhausted. But that is not what is in question on his return to Santos. Imagine, for example, a company that claims to be committed to the anti-corruption cause by hiring a person convicted in the first instance for diverting money. Although his right to defense is respected, Santos falls into contradiction by running the risk of ruining the institutional discourse with the dangerous practice of hosting an athlete suspected of raping a woman.
Despite the preliminary rape conviction, Robinho kept his career intact. After the contract with Atlético ended, he spent three seasons in Turkish football, the last in the Istanbul Başakşehir reserve. Regardless, there were more clubs besides Santos interested in having the 36-year-old forward. In 2009, when he was playing for Manchester City, Robinho had already been accused of sexual assault by a woman he met at a nighttime house. The complainant came to appear at the police station, in England, but the case ended up shelved.
If he is sentenced to the last degree in Italy, Robinho could appeal to other instances to avoid serving the sentence in prison. Because it is a crime committed outside the country, the Brazilian Constitution does not provide for the extradition of citizens born in the national territory. A new process would be necessary in Brazil, something that could last for several years, thanks to resources and the slow pace of justice. Due to the attitude of the leaders, used to relativize the cases of violence against women in the soccer environment – as evidenced by the recent disputes over the signing of goalkeeper Bruno, sentenced to more than twenty years in prison, of which he served seven For the femicide of his ex-partner Eliza Samudio, mother of one of his children, it is not improbable that, even if he is sentenced definitively when all resources are exhausted, Robinho will continue to play normally, as if nothing had happened.
Not only because of feminist campaigns, Santos should be more cautious when evaluating the incorporation of Robinho, in a delicate legal situation, but also because the club already has a professional in its technical commission with a similar stain on his resume. When he was a Grêmio player, in the eighties, coach Cuca was arrested in Switzerland, accused along with three other teammates of raping a 13-year-old girl. The episode became known as the “Bern scandal”. Due to the intervention of José Sarney’s government, they were finally released after spending a month in prison and were authorized to serve their sentences in freedom. Cuca never suffered damage to her public image by the accusation. He is in his third time at Santos as a coach.
The club, which is committed on social networks in confronting violence against women, now seems to tolerate it when stars on its team are singled out as sexual offenders. It is not an early sentence, in Robinho’s case, nor a life sentence, in Cuca’s. But it is about making a true commitment so that the flags raised by Santos are duly reflected in the institution’s actions, especially in football. What is really unfair is exploiting the drama of women as a marketing gimmick.