Brazilian football federation reassures ‘gay footballers’ after a row about pink hair

Brazilian national men's footballer Yan Couto

The Brazilian football federation (CBF) have released a statement reassuring gay and LGBTQ+ footballers that they have the right to self-expression.

This vocal commitment to fighting prejudice came after they were criticised for not allowing one player to play with pink hair.

Yan Couto, a player with the Brazil national soccer team who will play at the Copa America tournament next week, took to the pitch with pink hair during his last season with Spanish club Girona.

In an interview with a journalist, Couto was asked whether he would display pink hair at Copa America. He said: “For the national team, I’m going with black hair, I’m going to remove it. They told me that pink is a bit extravagant. I don’t think so, but I’ll respect it. They asked me to do it, and I will.”

Though Couto did not confirm or deny who the “they” in question was, it was suggested by fans and the media that it was the CBF who had asked him to remove his pink hair dye.

Criticism mounted as speculation spread that the CBF was forcing Couto to rein in his self-expression.

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In response, the CBF released a statement on Instagram, in which it said: “The CBF reaffirms its commitment to freedom, plurality, the right to self-expression and free construction of the personality of each individual who works for the organization or represents the Brazilian National Team. For the organization, employee performance speaks for itself.”

“The CBF’s commitment is to good football and best management practices. Each employee or athlete must have autonomy over their own appearance, beliefs, sexual orientation, and gender expression.”

“Since the beginning of the current administration, the CBF has made one of its priorities the fight against racism and any type of prejudice in football.”

The CBF added that it has partnered with the Observatory of Racial Discrimination in Football and the Torcidas Canarinhos LGBTQ+ Collective, which works with the CBF on anti-discrimination initiatives.

It is possible the request for Couto to remove his pink hair came from new rules introduced by head coach Dorival Junior’s management team, which include telling players to “take care to convey an image of seriousness,” “avoid wearing flash earrings,” and to not wear “extravagant necklaces”.

But there is no rule specifying any restrictions on hair colour.

Despite the CBF reassuring LGBTQ+ players and others who want to express themselves in non-traditional ways, there has never been an openly gay or bi footballer active in the Brazilian national men’s team.

In fact, there are just a handful of openly gay footballers across the world, including Josh Cavallo from Australia, Jake Daniels who plays for Blackpool FC, retired Scottish footballer Zander Murray, Jakub Jankto from Italy, Collin Martin from the U.S, and Phuti Lekoloane from South Africa.

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