Paulinho (foto: /)
Paulinho, a forward for Atlético Mineiro, faced harassment on social media due to his adherence to Candomblé, an Afro-Brazilian religion, following his debut with the Brazilian national team.
As the current top scorer in the Brazilian League, Paulinho has always been open about his faith. He celebrated his first call-up to the Brazilian team by thanking Eshu, one of the primary orishas (spirits) in Candomblé. During the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, he celebrated a goal by mimicking shooting an arrow, a gesture associated with the orisha Oshosi, the deity of hunting, whom Paulinho considers himself a 'son' of.
However, after his debut with Brazil's national team in a 2-1 loss against Colombia in Barranquilla, his social media account was flooded with derogatory comments about his beliefs.
Some users belittled him by comparing his religious expressions to those of other footballers, like Neymar, who openly show their faith in Jesus Christ. One user posted a photo of Neymar wearing a headband with the phrase "100% Jesus," commenting, "You'll never be like Neymar."
Atlético Mineiro, Paulinho's club, publicly supported him, stating that religious intolerance is a crime and must be fought by everyone. "Galo vehemently condemns the attacks directed at our player Paulinho on social media during the Brazilian national team's match. Strength, Paulinho. May your faith protect you from others' malice!" read the club's statement.
In Brazil, African-origin religions like Candomblé and Umbanda are practiced by about 2% of the population, as per recent surveys.
Initially practiced by slaves during colonial times, these religions were banned and persecuted until the mid-20th century. Today, nearly half of the religious intolerance complaints in Brazil are filed by followers of Candomblé and Umbanda, according to official data.