After spending seven years in jail on murder charges, Brazilian goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes de Souza is set to return to the game. On 13 March, Series B club Boa Esporte signed a two-year deal with the controversial player, amidst protests from various women's groups and Souza's victim's family.
The 32-year-old was arrested in 2010 over the death of his girlfriend Eliza Samudio. During his trial, he confessed to ordering her murder to avoid paying child support. In a gruesome twist, Souza revealed that Samudio's body was then fed to his Rottweiler dogs.
He was sentenced to 22 years imprisonment but got released last month, after serving less than seven years, over a technicality.
"Women are outraged and so are the general public. It is as if he had gone unpunished," wrote Djamila Ribeiro, a political philosopher and feminist activist, on the UOL website. Protesters have also created online petitions demanding the club cancel the signing.
"We protest both against this contract and against the willingness of the team and its sponsors to have their images linked to feminicide," the Popular Feminist Front of Varginha wrote on its Facebook page. A woman-killer must not be allowed a life acclaimed by the media. Bruno is no longer just a goalkeeper; his notoriety reflects the ease with which a woman's life is forgotten in the interests of a sporting career."
Following the news, three club sponsors have already backed out and Boa Esporte's biggest sponsor, a holding company called Gois and Silva, warned that it would also pull out unless Souza is barred. 'We will meet with the management of the club to demand that they rethink their decision on recruiting Bruno,' the group said in a statement.
Despite the widespread criticism, club president Rone Moraes da Costa defended the signing. "[Boa Esporte] was not responsible for the release and freedom of the athlete, Bruno, but the club and the team, as a company, represented by human beings, endowed with justice and legality, can say that they tried to do justice by helping a human being," he said in a statement.
Criminal charges aside, many football fans are eager to see the goalie back in the game. Prior to his sentencing, Souza played for Flamengo and Atletico Mineiro and was also in line for Brazil's World Cup team in 2014.