Rio de Janeiro, May 28 (EFE).- Members of Brazil’s national soccer team gathered for training ahead of 2022 World Cup qualifiers against Ecuador and Paraguay were unwilling to be drawn Friday on the latest controversy involving their captain, 29-year-old striker Neymar.
The two players designated to talk to the press at the training center responded with nearly identical language when asked about the news that sports apparel giant Nike ended its relationship with Neymar last year after he refused to cooperate with the probe of an employee’s allegation that he sexually assaulted her.
“It is not for us to speak out about that situation. That is something personal and he (Neymar) has to resolve it,” Emerson, who plays for Spanish club Real Betis, said. “I have no reason to talk about a personal matter of another person.”
Felipe, a defender with newly crowned LaLiga champions Atletico Madrid, took the same position: “We must concentrate on the football part and on the practices and leave him to resolve that.”
In messages on social media from the Brazil training center in Teresopolis, north of Rio de Janeiro, Neymar denied even knowing the alleged victim and accused Nike of spreading “lies.”
When Nike announced its break with the Paris Saint-Germain attacker last August, it did not disclose the reasons. But in a story published Thursday, The Wall Street Journal said that the split was due to the sexual assault allegation.
The alleged assault occurred in 2016, when the Paris Saint-Germain star was in New York and the employee came to his hotel room to coordinate events and logistics.
The employee said that Neymar tried to force her to perform oral sex and filed a formal complaint in 2018, the company told the WSJ.
Nike said that the complainant declined the offer of an investigation before changing her mind in 2019.
The company retained the services of a law firm to investigate the complaint and decided to stop featuring Neymar at commercial events for the duration of that process, but the player refused to cooperate with investigators.
“Nike terminated its relationship with the athlete because he refused to cooperate in a good faith investigation into credible allegations of misconduct brought by a female employee,” the company’s general counsel, Hilary Krane, said in response to questions from the WSJ.
“No single set of facts emerged that would enable us to speak substantively on the matter,” Nike said. “It would be inappropriate for Nike to make an accusatory statement without being able to provide supporting facts.”
The relationship between Nike and Neymar began when the Brazilian was 13 years old and already a promising youngster in Santos’ youth ranks.
In 2019, Neymar was accused of rape by a Brazilian model after an encounter in a Paris hotel.
The PSG striker insisted that it was a consensual relationship. Authorities in Brazil, the country where the case was filed, ultimately dropped the complaint. EFE cm-rcf/ks-dr