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Saturday 24 March 2018

Anger as Brazilian club signs goalkeeper convicted over ex-girlfriend's death

Bruno Fernandes de Souza during a game in 2010 (Felipe Dana/AP)
Bruno Fernandes de Souza during a game in 2010 (Felipe Dana/AP)

A Brazilian football club has signed a goalkeeper convicted over the killing of an ex-girlfriend, prompting outrage from many nationwide.

Boa Esporte's contract for Bruno Fernandes de Souza ignored mounting criticism in recent days after the team expressed plans to sign the former star player.

Souza was recently released from prison while he appeals against a 22-year sentence over the 2010 killing of a former girlfriend, Eliza Samudio.

A Supreme Court justice ordered his release on the grounds that his appeal to a higher court was languishing.

In a news conference, Souza said he was thankful for the opportunity and had been preparing himself for years to return to play.

"People run from me because of what happened in the past," said Souza, wearing a team shirt.

"Boa is opening the doors (for me). I'm very happy, motivated."

At least five sponsors have said they will drop the team in protest.

The city of Varginha, about 250 miles (400 kilometres) north west of Rio de Janeiro, also said it was looking into whether it was legally possible to break with the team, which uses its facilities.

In a Facebook post, club president Rone Moraes da Costa defended the decision, saying all laws had been followed and that the second division club was doing its part to help a man recover.

"Who has never heard (it said) that work dignifies a man?" he wrote.

Many Brazilians, from Esporte fans to women's groups, strongly disagreed, and thousands of angry comments were posted on the team's Facebook page.

"I will cheer on Boa Esporte if the team plays terribly in every game," wrote Rodrigo Marcos Costa below the club president's message.

"A team that hires a killer doesn't deserve anybody's respect."

Souza, 32, previously starred for Rio de Janeiro-based Flamengo.

The case underscores two deep problems in Latin America's most populous nation: endemic violence towards women and a notoriously slow judicial system.

Nearly five in 100,000 women are killed each year in Brazil, giving the country one of the world's highest homicide rates for women.

Souza was convicted by a lower court in 2013 after a trial and police reports that included horrific accounts of how Ms Samudio died.

She was strangled, her body was cut up and pieces were fed to dogs.

The model went missing after she sued the goalkeeper for child support in a public dispute that damaged Souza's image at the height of his fame.

Souza, who was married, denied the child was his; DNA tests later proved he was the father.

Ultimately, Souza, two men and an ex-girlfriend of Souza were convicted over the killing.

Souza appealed against his conviction to a higher court.

After more than four years, Supreme Court Justice Marco Aurelio Mello recently ordered Souza's release, arguing that the lack of a decision on the appeal could not justify indefinite detention.

Boa Esporte signed Souza to a two-year deal.

He could return to prison if the higher court rejects the appeal.


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