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Infidelity and sexual abuse on the pitch: why are cases involving football stars so recurrent?

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Casper Libero chapter.

On June 21st, Brazilian football star Neymar came public admitting to having cheated on his pregnant girlfriend, Bruna Biancardi, asking for hers and the public’s forgiveness in a public letter published on Instagram. The player received support from his teammates and friends but was continuously dragged over it by netizens, who would bring up the double standards for men and women when it comes to such scandals. 

On a more serious take, another Brazilian player was accused of raping a woman in a Barcelona nightclub at the beginning of the year. Daniel Alves was just now formally accused of the crime but has been in pre-trial detention since January, which caused him to be cut off from the national team.

Both cases bring up tough questions for football fans around the world and raise discussion about many other famous cases of infidelity and abuse perpetrated by famous football players. What’s the reason behind such scandals being so recurrent on the pitch? Why are women constantly the victims of men in such positions?

The naturalization of sexism

When it comes to the world of football, centered for decades around the figure of the masculine heterosexual male, it’s no wonder as to why societal worst takes on women might be perpetrated in that environment. But it takes another turn when women are constantly offended and abused by men in that scenario.

“In professional football, besides technical qualities, other skills are required, masculinity among them. This is taught/learned by all actors in the sports show: leaders, professionals, fans, journalists…” says Gustavo Andrada Bandeira, Doctor in Education and specialist on sports journalism by UFRGS.

Gustavo goes on to say: “Exclusive male environments, like football teams, tend to be built like closed spaces where the group values are preponderant to the values of the society, especially with a depreciation of everything linked with femininity”.

Most players start training and living within the football community at a really young age. Growing up around their seniors, and the professionals they look up to, these boys are inserted in a social circle mostly separated from women, who view them more as achievements and less as human beings they interact and have innocent relationships.

The protection of the community

One of the major factors that allow for the continuity of such practices is the fact that men feel safe surrounded by the protection of being men, but also idolized figures. “The representation around idols tends to be really positive. Idols are authorized to behave in a distinct manner from average people”, states the specialist. 

It’s the case of coach and former football player Cuca, who took part in a group raping of a 13-year-old girl in Switzerland in 1987, but who continued to act in the sport for many years. This year, he was appointed as coach for one of the Brazilian major teams, Corinthians, and supported to maintain the position by a considerable portion of society, between colleagues and football fans.

He was only dismissed from the spot once the pressure of a more progressive sector of Corinthians strongly protested against his admission, and the campaign took on the support of big figures around the team, becoming a viral topic on the internet.

“In this space of such sexism, violence against women is ignored. The idea is that this famous, idolized man wouldn’t need to rape, as if someone needed to… Inequality between men and women isn’t an invention of football, but in this space, there’s an expansion of these inequalities”, explains the specialist.

The effect on women

Meanwhile, the effect such situations have on women is considerably different. The stereotype around the women who maintain relations with football players is already historically perpetrated by some fans as the “gold digger”, who would be using their idols’ fame and money to take a place in the spotlight.

That is made clear when, in cases of abuse, the women coming forward with their stories, possibly asking for some sort of financial compensation, are immediately discredited as attention and/or money seekers. In fact, not asking for money was what made Daniel Alves’ victim seem credible to a large part of society. According to the Spanish paper El País, the 23-year-old woman “expressively” renounced this right because her goal is to make justice and make Alves pay with jail time.

When it comes to cheating though, it often results in troubled separations, usually with bigger consequences to the female reputation. As of now, it’s not Neymar’s case, but a similar situation did happen with Real Madrid’s Éder Militão, also accused of cheating on his then-pregnant partner, model and internet personality Karoline Lima. 

In the wake of the scandal, the couple parted ways with her returning to Brazil to raise their daughter. Still, controversy sparked when the media found out how much he was willing to pay for child support. People defending Lima claimed the amount, around R$ 6.000, was incompatible with the player’s lifestyle, considering he earns around 7 million euros a year. Militão justified himself by saying that he’s at the beginning of his career, and also needs to support his family.

In response to internet backlash, Karoline went on saying: “I’m a woman, I’m a mother, I have my nature, I have my character, and thank God I have my voice. And maybe that’s what’s been bothering”.


The article above was edited by Clarissa Palácio.

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Isadora Mangueira

Casper Libero '26

Brazillian journalism major. Passionate about anything media related and obsessed with learning more about the world.