FC Barcelona are set to strip club legends, Ronaldinho and Rivaldo of ambassadorial roles because they have exercised their civic rights in supporting a Brazilian presidential candidate.
The 2002 World Cup winners are regarded as icons in Catalonia and frequently appear in marketing roles, sponsorship initiatives and club events. But their current open support for Jair Bolsonaro as the country’s next president in the upcoming general elections in Brazil has angered those in the corridors of power at the Nou Camp.
The former players’ romance with Bolsonaro who is seen as a hardliner and a non- conformist is seen not to align with Barcelona’s well known liberal democratic values.
They don’t want to be seen to be associated with Bolsonaro, who has been accused of racism, misogyny and homophobia and has been dubbed Brazil’s Donald Trump.
However, Bolsonaro is riding a massive wave of popularity in his native country. The latest polls give him a commanding lead over left-leaning rival, Fernando Haddad, taking 59 percent of the popular vote compared to his opponent’s 41 percent.
The 63-year-old Bolsonaro is a seven-term congressman who is a defender of the military dictatorship Brazil was under between 1964 and 1985.
He has pitched himself as the anti-establishment candidate and is making headway as Brazilians turn against Haddad’s Workers Party, which has become embroiled in corruption charges following the imprisonment of its founder, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, last year.
Of the former Barcelona pair, Ronaldinho has been the most vocal in his support for Bolsonaro, calling on his fellow Brazilians to vote for the Sao Paulo-born former Brazilian Army captain.
Rivaldo has also backed him, and although Barca are reluctant to condemn the pair publicly, they are unhappy as they feel that Bolsonaro’s values go against the ones they hold as a club.
Both players won the Ballon d’Or at the Nou Camp, with Rivaldo lifting it in 1999 and Ronaldinho in 2005, while they also both won two La Liga titles each, with Ronaldinho adding the Champions League in 2006.