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Why nobody in Brazil wears No.24 shirt?

It's not about superstition, it's about the homophobia in Brazilian football

Why nobody in Brazil wears No.24 shirt? It's not about superstition, it's about the homophobia in Brazilian football

Out of 600 players from Brazilirão, only one player has worn the number 24 this season (Brenno Costa, third goalkeeper of Gremio that has not yet debuted in an official match), and the statistics do not change if you look at the last seasons. It may seem a superstition, but the main reason why no footballer in Brazil wants to wear the number 24 - the curse of the 24, as it is called by Bleacher Report - is much less goliardic than you might expect.

In "Jogo do Bicho" ("the animal's game", a traditional Brazilian gambling game), each number corresponds to an animal and the 24 is represented by the deer, translated into Brazilian with "veado" and associated with "viado", a term commonly used to refer to transgender prostitutes. And here is the explanation for the repulsion against the jersey number in question, from which each player tries to escape to avoid the easy insinuation of being gay.

Discriminatory episodes are frequent in Brazilian football. In 2013 former Corinthians striker Emerson Sheik had to publicly apologize after posting a picture of him kissing a friend. Last August, the match between Vasco da Gama and Sao Paolo was interrupted by the referee because of the homophobic chants addressed to Sao Paulo fans, reduced only by the intervention of Vanderlei Luxemburgo (coach of Vasco) and the announcement of the speaker who threatened to suspend the game. This episode led all the teams of Brazilirão to take sides on social networks to raise awareness of the issue among their supporters. But such a sudden stance seemed to be a kind of momentary initiative. Also because when the clubs were asked by the Estado de S. Paulo newspaper if they backed docking points as a punishment, only Bahia - a society traditionally sensitive to these issues - agreed.

It is not surprising that Brazilian societies are not generally sensitive to this issue, given the state's intolerant attitude towards homosexuality. Brazil, according to a report by GGB (Group Gay of Bahia), would be the first country in the world for LGBT+ victims, with 445 deaths related to homophobia in 2017. Jair Bolsonaro, president elected on January 1, 2019, expressed with firm conviction thath he doesn't want Brazil to be "a destination of the gay paradise", declaring with equal and shameless pride to be "very proud to call himself homophobic.

"It was a choice between being yourself and being a footballer. It was simply impossible to be both," said Brazilian Douglas Braga immediately after retirement at the age of 21. The story of Braga, like the one of former Aston Villa and Stuttgart Thomas Hitzlsperger who decided to declare his sexuality known after his retirement, shows how homosexuality is the great elephant in the football room, where still the only footballer in business to come out was Minnesota United player Collin Martin. Homophobia in football is a complex problem that is difficult to solve with a UEFA awareness campaign: it is connected with the culture of sport, with the voice that players have outside the sport context and with the relationship with contemporary society. However, it is not encouraging that many footballers in recent years are exposing themselves to the problem of racism in football with concrete results and the commitment of federations and clubs, and yet no one has been the spokesman for a cause that remains confined to silence.