Sport

Why Richarlison is the one Brazilian player you should care about

'We can't have opinions, it's a dangerous world' - Richarlison on his …

He’s already been one of the best players at this year’s World Cup, and Richarlison de Andrade is emerging as one of the most progressive footballers in the game.

It’s an interesting time to be Brazilian, after all. The country came into the tournament as one of the favourites, and fresh off the back of a divisive election.

Jair Bolsonaro’s government rode the populist wave across the world, and proved one of the most contentious periods in the history of the country. The far-right nationalist was criticised for a cavalier attitude towards the environment and a problematic approach to the Covid pandemic.

Brazil’s most high-profile footballer Neymar divided the public in Brazil ahead of the election between Bolsonaro and leftist former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva by appearing to throw support behind Bolsonaro.

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Now, with Lula beginning his time as leader after the security victory, Richarlison has emerged as the emblem of a new progressive Brazil.

Richarlison scored a brace against SerbiaJustin Setterfield/Getty Images

People online, including sports journalist Talyta Vespa and Guardian journalist Tom Phillips, have been vocal in their praise of the 25-year-old – both for his brace of goals against Serbia, but mainly for his approach to politics away from the pitch.

The footballer backed efforts to roll out vaccines while Bolsonaro downplayed the impact of the coronavirus, and he even donated oxygen cylinders to the city of Manaus.

He has also spoken about topics as diverse as gay rights, racism and environmental factors, even adopted a jaguar to draw attention to the impact of deforestation and climate change to Brazil’s Pantanal wetlands.

The Tottenham player also spoke to the Guardian after Brazil players were subjected to racist behaviour from Tunisia fans, where a banana was thrown in front of him from the stands.

“The punishment needs to be more severe,” he said. “When that person threw the banana there, I ended up leaving it to the side and celebrating the goal with my teammates. I left it there and kept my focus on the pitch. But, as I said, this type of thing needs to be punished so that other people don’t do the same.”

The footballer scored an acrobatic scissor-kick in his country's first gameJustin Setterfield/Getty Images

“We live in a difficult world, in a difficult era, where people don’t have respect for race, for religion, for politics, or whatever it may be,” he added.

He also gives 10 per cent of his salary to fund the Instituto Padre Roberto Lettieri, which is a support house in Barretos which assists cancer patients.

Recent days have seen many people praise Richarlison online, with one person replying to the Guardian article on Twitter by saying: “I was never a Richarlison fan, but reading this Guardian article and some of his non-football interviews I’m starting to appreciate him more.”

Another said: “#Richarlison Great player with great views on Politics.”

One more added: “He is an amazing soccer player. Better that that, he is a human-beign that cares!”

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