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Brazil’s Women Soccer Players in Revolt Against Federation


Brazil’s best women’s soccer players have started a revolt.


The firing of the first woman to lead the country’s national team has triggered the retirement of several top players and unleashed a torrent of criticism against the national soccer federation over several issues related to its treatment of women.


Five players quit the program after the coach, Emily Lima, was removed last month — after less than a year in the post — in the wake of a series of poor results. Among those who have walked are Cristiane, a prolific striker and a veteran of four World Cups and four Olympics, and the veteran midfielder Francielle.


On Friday, the situation escalated when a group of former players published an open letter criticizing the federation.


“We, the players, have invested years of our own lives and all of our energy to build this team and this sport to its strength today,” read the letter, which was signed by eight former players, including Cristiane and Francielle as well as the former World Cup stars Sissi, Rosana and Formiga. “Yet we, and almost all other Brazilian women, are excluded from the leadership and decision-making for our own team and our own sport.”


The crisis is the latest effort by women’s soccer players, most prominently the United States women’s national team, but also those representing Australia, Denmark and other nations, to demand the broader respect and support they say they deserve from the federations that govern them.


But the Brazilians’ complaints also highlight broader sports governance issues in that country, South America’s largest, which hosted the men’s World Cup in 2014 and the Summer Olympics last year. On Thursday, the police arrested the head of Brazil’s national Olympic committee amid an ongoing investigation into allegations that Rio de Janeiro secured the 2016 Games by paying bribes to International Olympic Committee voters.


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The soccer federation that is the subject of women’s players’ ire, known by its Portuguese acronym, C.B.F., continues to be run by Marco Polo del Nero, who remains the subject of an international arrest warrant after he was indicted on corruption charges by United States authorities probing corruption in FIFA, soccer’s global governing body.


The group of players who quit said they did so because they were “exhausted from years of disrespect and lack of support,” the letter said.


While Brazil has produced some of the sport’s top female stars, including Marta — a five-time world player of the year who appears to be remaining with the national team, at least for now — the women’s game in the country, as it is in many other parts of the world, remains poorly promoted and lightly supported by its federation. In addition to the firing of Lima, appearance fees for national team players remain a bone of contention, and women remain absent from the C.B.F.’s executive board.




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“There are no meaningful pathways for former players to find their way into C.B.F. and help to run their own game,” the letter written by the players said. “Over many years we have lived and watched in despair as Brazil’s women were neglected by C.B.F.”


Cristiane is the most high-profile of the five to have left the national team. Cristiane, one of the national team’s career scoring leaders, posted a video on YouTube to explain her decision.


“I dealt with it for 17 years,” she said, “but I can’t anymore.”


Cristiane's statement.CreditCreditVideo by Ella Masar

Cristiane, 32, said that while recent results had been poor, the team was enjoying working under Lima, who was in the process of imposing a new style that would take time to develop, and pointed out that her predecessors, all men, had far longer to get things right. Lima’s replacement as coach is Vadão, the man she replaced following the Rio Olympics.