Brazilian footballers are famous for their imagination and flair.
But now the sport’s administrators are getting in on the act.
While soccer authorities over the world routinely hand out suspensions and fines to players for rule breaking, Brazilian players are getting the chance to perform community service instead of wasting their time on the sidelines.
The latest victim – or beneficiary – to be given an unusual punishment is Corinthians striker Emerson.
“You can’t call this a punishment, it’s more like a life lesson for us all”
Corinthians striker Emerson
He was punished with a six-match ban last month for insulting the referee in a first division game against Atletico.
However, the ban was reduced to five matches, provided he spend a morning visiting sick children at a Sao Paulo hospice.
The Superior Court of Sports Justice, the legal body that oversees Brazilian football, also ordered him to pay a $5,000 fine to the institution.
The controversial striker turned up late to meet the children but left declaring the idea a success to reporters.
“You can’t call this a punishment, it’s more like a life lesson for us all,” said Emerson.
“We can bring a little bit of joy to people who are going through a very tough time.”
Emerson is not the only player to receive this kind of punishment. He is the third big name to support a good cause in as many months.
Palmeiras’ Chilean midfielder Jorge Valdivia and Luis Fabiano, the former Brazil and Sevilla striker who now plays for Sao Paulo, were the first.
Valdivia was ordered to spend his fine for insulting a referee on food and other aid for an orphanage in Rio de Janeiro while Luis Fabiano was sentenced to visit a rehabilitation centre for handicapped children.
“This type of visit is educational as well as being punitive,” said Flavio Zveiter, who heads the court that metes out punishment to footballers in Brazil.
“These guys are heroes to lots of people and this helps them reflect about their position and responsibility to society”
Flavio Zveiter, head of Superior Court of Sports Justice
“These guys are heroes to lots of people and this helps them reflect about their position and responsibility to society.
“They sometimes live in their own little world and they don’t realise that what they do has repercussions in society as a whole.”
Zveiter said he was moved after seeing Luis Fabiano interact with the disadvantaged kids and vowed to hand out more alternative punishments in the future.
“I think the repercussions were positive, the player himself said he was touched by it and that was the main thing,” Zveiter said.
“I intend to use this policy more.”
With racism allegations and dangerous tackles flying in European football, one wonders if it might be time for a few more countries to embrace this method.
Whether a footballer likes it or not their responsibility to society is increasing by the day.
Surely, they can no longer afford to be so isolated from it.
Please tell us what you think below.
Do you agree with this form of punishment?