For months Carol Solberg has lost her temper with the Brazilian “nightmare” Jair Bolsonaro: burning rainforest, attacks on culture, the coronavirus disaster response which has left more than 165,000 Brazilians dead. Finally, he snapped.
Fora, Bolsonaro! shouted the Brazilian volleyball star at the end of a live interview on Brazil’s most-watched sports channel, SporTV. Bolsonaro is out!
When he said those few words one late September afternoon, Solberg was notorious for his exploits on the pitch.
Two months later the 33-year-old mother of two became a symbol of strong opposition to Brazil’s right-wing leaders and an unlikely freedom fighter. His image, and his opposition to Bolsonaro, has been on the front pages of newspapers and magazines, with a weekly proclaiming his Brazilian “Active Voice.”
“I want to use my voice for purposes that I consider urgent,” Solberg said of his decision to speak during a post-match interview after winning a bronze medal at a beach volleyball tournament in Rio.
“I am very much against everything represented by this government. What we experience is a nightmare – a government showing contempt for its people and human life. “
Solberg’s protests sparked an immediate reaction and outrage from Bolsonaro supporters and sports authorities.
The Brazilian Volleyball Confederation accused him of “tarnishing the sport” with “reckless actions” and threatened his actions. The Brazilian sports arbitration court summoned Solberg will be fined 100,000 reais (£ 14,000) and granted a six-match suspension, although no athlete has ever voiced public support for Bolsonaro.
But the attempt to punish Solberg backfired, only amplifying his cries.
“Right now, the world of sport is witnessing an attack on freedom of expression,” Istoé magazine complain, condemning the “disproportionate and harsh” reaction to Solberg’s move.
“Persecuting athletes for their political views is repressive [regimes], ”Says the magazine, remembering how the Brazilian dictatorship of 1964-1985 was targeted Afecklesho football player.
In one of more than 20 interviews Solberg has given since his post-match protests, he said being Brazilian had been a “shame” since Bolsonaro took office in January 2018 and declared war on the environment, media and the arts. “It must be forbidden for a president to be so bad.”
Solberg said he respects athletes who keep quiet. “But for me, an athlete is not just a body made to entertain other people. They are part of society.
“They say we athletes should set an example. But how can you set an example if you don’t have a voice? “asked Solberg, quoting basketball star and activist LeBron James as one of the inspirations.
Another role model is Solberg’s own mother, Isabel, a former volleyball star known for her pro-democracy activism.
In Interview with the newspaper O Globo he defended his daughter’s right to speak. “What embarrasses me is him singing the praises of a torturer,” he said, referring to Bolsonaro’s tribute to the dictator-era torturer Carlos Brilhante Ustra, “or if he is homophobic or racist”.
Solberg, who cleansed of all wrongdoing last week after public protests, said he was encouraged by the political revival that Brazil’s youth experienced under Bolsonaro.
“A lot of people came together to change the country,” he said. “We’re going to get through all of this, and we’ll be a better country.”
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